The Heart of the Game | Notes & Review

Posted on January 11, 2009


Miramax, 2007. Rated [PG-13]. Available at

Official website:
Bill Resler on NPR.
Heart of the Game entry at Wikipedia.

The Heart of the Game is a film that documents various aspects of life set on the backdrop of girls high school basketball. Several mini-biographies are told throughout the film which is a uniquely complimentary kind of content for the genre. The span of human emotion, from disappointment, to joy, to sadness, to frustration, to elation, are all here, and presented in an ad hoc but beautifully non-scripted manner. The slight randomness in jumping from story to story actually complements the characters themselves and makes for a very enjoyable viewing. Taking 6 years to film, and narrated by Ludacris, Heart moves at a fast pace, and is filled with proverbial lessons and dramatic tension.

Bill Resler, the college tax-teacher-turned-high-school-girls-basketball-coach, brings to the team some unorthodox and innovative ways of seeing the sport. His concept of the “inner-circle” allows the girls to “self-govern” decisions. He frequently uses animal analogies and “themes” for the season which bring almost gory types of imagery and language to the court of the game. His attitude is positive, and vicious, all at the same time. My favorite quote:

One of the things that really makes coaching fun is when you tell teenagers, “Go do A, B, C,” and they’ll look at you and say “Yes. We’ll go do A, B, C.” And they’re excited about A, B, C. And five seconds later you watch them do X, Y, Z. Sometimes I’ll ask them, “Why did you do X, Y, Z?” And they never have an answer. They always look at you like, “Why would you ask a question like that?”

We also get a glimpse into Darnellia Russell’s life, a young African-American girl who has the challenges of poverty and a broken home to overcome as her family encourages her to attend a predominantly white school so as to bolster the opportunities she may have in life. Not only does Heart depict discipline and challenge, but through Russell, we also see the clash of cultures, and the dynamics of two very different kinds of upbringing. I commend the filmmaker for highlighting the cultural challenges without making race a central theme of the movie. Well done. And, as someone who works in a culturally-diverse environment, I am thankful for that attitude, and the overall integrity of character (at least depicted) in the film of the main characters.

Perhaps what is just as inspiring to watch is the “Making of Heart of the Game” with the Producer, Director, and cameraman, Ward Serrill. Because of the documentary genre, this behind the scenes look was even more fascinating. Like the story in the film, Serrill’s story of how the film came together was parallel in tension, drama, and the mystery of the uknown future. Thinking he was only going to film for 1 year, due to the continual turn of events, he ends up spending over 6 years with Resler and the team. So glad he did.

While more conservative youth workers will be cautious of the language and some content, the realities of real life are excellent conversational jumping off points here for others.

Posted in: Life, Reviews