Steve James directed one of the best sports documentaries of all time with Hoop Dreams. The film is a thoughtful and emotional look at where the love of the game and its pressures interact with the harsh realities of day-to-day life. Unfortunately, his return to the sports documentary genre, Head Games, simply raises awareness about a topic. It has an important issue at its core—sports-related concussions and the resulting chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)—but James never gets past establishing the problem, restating the problem, and then focusing on whether or not parents should let their kids play violent sports. Head Games doesn’t offer any easy answers, but it also doesn’t get to the larger questions regarding our enjoyment of violent sports and the financial incentives to keep the status quo.
Steve James, who previously directed the brilliant sports documentary Hoop Dreams along with last year’s critically acclaimed doc The Interrupters, has returned to the sports world to explore the serious issue of concussions in Head Games. It’s an issue that has recently jumped to the forefront of sports discussions as more athletes suffer the injury that can lead to not only permanent brain damage, but in some cases, suicide. Of course, no one is willing to simply shut down all contact sports, so what’s the solution? Do we stop kids from playing? Should other sports follow the NFL’s lead when it comes to fining certain kinds of hits (although there’s no penalty for sending a concussed player back on to the field; just ask Colt McCoy)? It’s a rich topic, and James has proven time and again that he has the tools to explore it thoughtfully.
Hit the jump to check out the trailer. The film will have a limited release in September, but people who want to see the film can try to put together a screening through Tugg.