Tuesday, April 13, 2010

30 for 30, "No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson": No definitive answers

"30 for 30" is back on ESPN proper tonight at 8 with Steve James' "No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson." James directed "Hoop Dreams," one of the greatest documentaries ever made (about sports or otherwise), and he and Iverson grew up in the same hometown of Hampton, VA, so I had high expectations for this match of filmmaker and subject. I was not disappointed. A few brief thoughts after the jump...

As the subtitle suggests, "No Crossover" focuses on the bowling alley brawl Iverson was involved in as a 17-year-old. But in a broader sense, the film is about the divide between the black and white populations of Hampton, as seen through the lens of both the trial and James's own upbringing. Some of the film's most affecting moments involve detailing little-known pieces of Iverson's biography, but just as emotional are ones where James talks to his mother, or about his father or, in one case, engages his African-American cameraman in an impromptu dialogue on race. There are documentaries where it feels like the director has inserted himself into the story for the sake of self-promotion, but here the two stories blend together beautifully. (And the whole point of "30 for 30" has been to let the directors tell stories they have a personal stake in, whether they include themselves in the action like James and Peter Berg, or not like Dan Klores.)

For those assuming "No Crossover" will be an apology for Iverson, it is not. Nor is it a condemnation. It looks at the case, and at his life, and lets you choose your own answers about The Answer. Iverson's not always a model citizen (and the film was made before some of the latest bizarre/sad twists in his story), but James tries to place his life and behavior in a greater context, to try to find some truth not only about the bowling alley trial, but so much of AI's story. It's a wonderful film, one of the best of this terrific film series, and I highly recommend it.

Watch it tonight and feel free to discuss it here.


billy said...

Hi Alan,

Love the blog. Keep up the great work, and thanks for updating even while you're away.

I just finished listening to Bill Simmons interview Steve James on his podcast. Here's the link. You should give it a listen:


They talk a little about why the director inserted himself into the story so much. Seems like ESPN nudged him a little bit.

Also, if you get some time (Ha!), I'd love for you to check out a Lost podcast I do for the Register Star in Rockford: http://tinyurl.com/cnojon

Victoria Rose said...

This has been hashed over and over. The media cannot get enough of taking every opportunity to bring Iverson down b/c of how he chooses to braid his hair, his tattoos, & this, this old, regurgitated fight when he was a teenager. WHAT teenage boy hasn't had a major fight? When a Jewish kid threw a chair across a college common area while fighting with his girlfriend, and the next week threw her out with her dinner, blame it on the alchohol. When it's Allen or someone like him, blame it on being black and from the ghetto. Enough. He is one of the greatest athletes of all time. He is human. Look for perfection in God. Stop hailing and nailing athletes whose talents are so great, one cannot understand the depths unless one watches them up close every day. Go stand in the court with him for 5 minutes even today "at the end of his career, his best days behind him." Sick of seeing this. How about using some 3-D for far shots and great camera-men for tight, cutting shots, to ATTEMPT to capture how fast and skilled this game is. Put that to some heavy beats and get everyone up off their couches. Cease criticizing others to make self feel better. I went to college with Allen, we were partners in many classes. He used to walk me home late at night when all the drunk white boys wouldn't have known if I stayed or left the M St. bars (and didn't try a thing - if ya don't put it out there respect is mutual). He is smarter and kinder than all of you give him credit for. Not another "black hoodlum" that got lucky b/c he plays basketball. Victoria R. Scrocca

Ben said...

V, I don't think you could be more wrong about what this documentary is about. Although I have yet to see it what I've read and heard about this film through various articles and podcasts is that it takes an unbiased look at the trial and A.I.'s up-bringing. It is in no way an indictment of Allen as a human black or white. I'm expecting an outstanding film that may give A.I.'s career a new look and might change the way people feel about him for the better. But of course I could be wrong since I haven't seen it yet.

Jesse said...

Victoria's knee-jerk outrage at perceived knee-jerk outrage is weird.

Looking forward to seeing the doc. "Hoop Dreams" is a personal favorite of mine.

Anonymous said...

This was by far the best doc of the series to date as every other one felt too one-sided or just seemed to be missing something. It reminded me of Bigger, Stronger, Faster in that it tried to cover all the angles, let everyone say what they wanted to say, and then left it up to the viewer to decide (or not) on his own about the subject.

And it was remarkable that they got all that home video from multiple sources considering so many of the people involved in the case didn't want to be involved in the film.

Frank said...

Thought the doc was well done. While we as viewers are left to form our own "answers," I think the obvious tilt is that Iverson was involved in the brawl but was treated unfairly in sentencing. Loved AI's defense attorney, he was the best. Victoria, I'm not sure I understand if your "Jewish kid" comment is supposed to be a real event or an analogy. Either way, I think you are WAY off base on this one.

M. Haubs said...

I thought this was the first truly excellent 30 for 30 film so far - easily the best of the bunch, imo.

I agree with Anon's take, and that the defense attorney was a great character.

Alan, I'm surprised you haven't posted on the St. Anthony's/Bob Hurley Sr. doc. Beyond being outstanding in its own right, it's just so Jersey to its core.

bsangs said...

I was in the camp of those worried this would be a 90 minute apology for AI and I'm man enough to admit when I'm wrong. Fantastic piece. (It doesn't change my opinion of AI one iota however.) It was about as fair and balanced as a story like this can be - and not in the FNC way. :)

Especially enjoyed the segment during which James addressed the many conspiracy theories. The one activist spent much of that part debunking all the theories and then came out with a doozy of his own about AI dating the judge's daughter or granddaughter.

Well done Mr. James. I'm going to pull out "Hoop Dreams" again, it's been a while.

Tiana said...

I enjoyed this 30 for 30 immensely. I didn't pay much attention to sports when the "maiming by mob" events occurred, yet this documentary has shed some light on AI's upbringing for me. Thanks for posting this Alan.
BTW, Congrats on the family event!

compain87 said...

I loved this 30 for 30, but there have only been a couple that I didn't love. I think I was more compelled by Steve James' personal introspective on his hometown and his family. I think it hurt that Iverson didn't do the interview and this doc probably could have helped his perceived image. I was touched by the story of AI and his tutor with the home movie of his Grad and then him sending a large bouquet for her funeral.

I'm really excited to see the next 30 for 30 "Silly little game", it looked pretty interesting when I saw the preview.

thegue said...

This was the best documentary of the series for me due to one simple reason: it left me wanting more. I thought it was an incredible look at race relations, and I thought (if anyone would agree to being interviewed) this piece could've been hours longer and I would have watched every minute.

TNT said...

Good documentary, but not the best of the series. James definitely attacked this from a personal angle, exploring the racism that existed in the town, in the country, and indeed, within his family.

However, in true documentary fashion, nothing was solved and little exposed. For an event that took place 17 years ago, one would assume that more light could be shed on the subjects brought up. Much like the Len Bias 30 for 30 documentary, it covered a broad range of topics, but didn't explore the person as much as the audience (me) wanted.

After watching the documentary, I feel like I know a little more about Iverson, but have far more questions than when I started.

Unknown said...

Great documentary. Reminded me of The Wire in the way it examined the institutional problems that plagued Hampton.