Four years, two continents, and a whole lot of culture shock in the making, Anne Buford's endearing and vibrantly photographed hoop-dreams doc follows a quartet of gifted West African teens from the SEEDS Academy (Sports for Education and Economic Development in Senegal) as they head to the U.S. on basketball scholarships. Unlike the bog-standard "small fry gunning for the championship" story (and who's calling any of these seven-footers small, anyway?), Elevate focuses less on NBA long-shot romanticism than on the boys' struggles in assimilating to life in prestigious American prep schools. Assane, Dethie, Aziz, and Byago are each on different tracks with the soberest of expectations, perhaps because it's easy to be disenchanted by visa problems, injuries, unsubtle academic pressures, or being the only Muslim in a Christian institution. Within these daily dramas and interactions with some illuminating supporting playersespecially the self-serving coach from Connecticut's South Kent School who jumps ship mid-season to work for Nike or the doting headmaster who offers up a poignant, paternal graduation speech to one of his gold-star studentslies an upbeat but never sugarcoated look at how cultural diversity can provide as many roadblocks as it does opportunities.
Get the Film Club Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.
More Film News
- Alex Gibney: Steve Jobs Had the 'Focus of a Monk — Without the Empathy'
- Netflix’s 'Narcos' Tries to Be 'The Wire' for Colombia’s Drug War
- ‘The Second Mother’ Offers a Sharp Brazilian Take on the Upstairs/Downstairs Drama
- The Predictability of Teary Kids Doc 'My Voice, My Life' Doesn't Make It Any Less Powerful