Dir. Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson | 2008 | 70min
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Slaying Goliath, a feature length verité documentary, follows the New York Select Huskies, a basketball team of ten and eleven year old Harlem boys and their families, through their heartfelt often tumultuous journey to the annual national championships in Coca Beach, Florida. The documentary takes an intimate look at the world of young athletes, their hard work and dedication, and the emotionally dark side of what such commitment to the competition and to the eventual allure of professional success can lead people to do. Through this journey we meet parents who feel this team is their child’s first crucial step toward the NBA. We also observe the events and controversies that surround the New York Select Huskies as they attempt, against all odds, to compete against 96 other teams across the country for the American Athletic Union (AAU) National Basketball Championship.
Steve Harris, the 26-year-old coach of the New York Select Huskies team and former child preacher, often uses the story of David and Goliath to motivate his players. As in the aftermath of David’s triumph against the giant Goliath, once his team of 10 and 11 year olds defeats some of New York’s most powerful basketball organizations, the team starts to experience internal furor and envy, resulting in emotional strain, and physical altercations aimed at the coach. Yet, Coach Harris appears to be losing sight of the bigger picture along the way. From the flashback scenes throughout the film, we discover his dedication to the kids and his often times unorthodox and quasi-violent approach to coaching. He declares, “I believe I was sent by God to coach basketball to these kids and help them get out of Harlem with a skill.
The film raises larger questions for the audience of whether the price our children pay in today’s world of amateur sports is worth the end result. By examining parental motivation and the pressures put on children at such a young age, Slaying Goliath uses beautiful visual storytelling techniques to go where no sports documentary has yet ventured. By luring the audience into the story through its visuals the film pushes us to take a critical look at how families and coaches, knowingly or unknowingly, feed their youngest players into the high stakes of the sports industrial complex and the impact that system has on our children’s priorities and long term goals.