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Heart of the Game

Director: Ward Serrill
Rated: PG-13 for brief strong language
Runtime: 97 min
Studio: Woody Creek Productions

“Look into their eyes, look into their eyes, look into their eyes” urges Bill Resler, coach of the Roosevelt Roughriders girls basketball team.

Skillfully narrated by actor and recording artist Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, “Heart of the Game” is a riveting and exciting documentary which follows Resler as he guides the popular Seattle high school players from virtual obscurity to national recognition.

Resler is the film. He is a “piece of work” and his coaching techniques are wild yet wonderful. A tax professor at the University of Washington and a character among coaches, it is difficult not to react to the way that Resler encourages his girls to be a team. His frank, honest, often downright crazy approach includes encouraging the group to envision themselves as a pack of animals of some sort which would make their opponents prey. You get the drift.

As interesting as the coach, are the players who are highlighted and the personal challenges they have to overcome to make it in the game. Darnellia Russell, a star player of the Roughrider group, who ran into difficulties that no one could ever imagine. Playing ball meant that Darnellia would be the first in her family to go to college. In the midst of pursing this dream she loses her eligibility and had to fight legally, which is bizarre, to play basketball. With Coach Resler, her team, and her family by her side, she takes on enormous personal obstacles as well as the ruling body of high school sports in Washington State. Russell suffers consequences that are still hard to fathom.

Russell’s troubles, which seems antiquated for these modern times will leave you wondering about a timeline for this film. When did all of this take place? An answer you won’t get from the documentary.

Writer and director Ward Serrill, who spent seven years filming the narrative understands the meaning of the word “hook”, Heart of the Game is so well edited that the rhythm of the film with have you laughing, shaking your head in dismay, crying, and jumping out of your seat during the game. I experienced all of this and I’m no sports fan!

At the end of the day this film is about family (though for some inexplicable reason we never meet Resler’s kin, just see photos of them). Thematically stressed is the importance of tight relations on court and off, caring, growing and the “true meaning of team work”.

Last bit of advice, don’t jump out of your seats as soon as the film is over, stay for the credits which demonstrate how deeply Resler, a father of three, is committed to raising a future generation of healthy, competitive, and confident young women.

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