Free Throw

Our screening audience at the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival actually applauded at the end of this one...and we're a tough crowd!

It's March, 2011. We follow eight high school students in Compton, Cali- fornia whose names have been drawn in a lottery. They were among 80 seniors who qualified to submit their names, based on their GPA and their desire to go to college. The contest is a basketball Free Throw showdown and the prize is a $40,000.00 scholarship.

Over the course of this documentary, we become acquainted with faculty members, students and the contest coordinator, who engineered this from the beginning, including all of the fund-raising that made it possible.

The high-school principal is clear: "Compton has an image problem!" He is determined to change that by altering his students' expectations and their long-term plans. Other faculty members are equally devoted to elevating their students' grades, their deportment and their confidence.

Among the students we have:
  • Omar, the grandson of a recently naturalized citizen;
  • Diana, is aware that teachers usually direct minorities to community colleges. She's grateful it isn't that way at Compton!
  • Alex, a boy who spent years in Ghana and spoke only French when he came to Compton;
  • Donald, an upbeat optimist who is convinced that a quick prayer will probably help (he gave his shoes to a needy classmate - his mom can't fault him for that!);
  • Arturo has been raised by his abuela and his padre (his screen saver is his dream house);
  • Elizabed who quickly becomes pregnant and has to leave the competition;
  • Efran is the sixth child in the family and his was the sixth name drawn, he thinks that will bring him luck;
  • Victory is a lovely, vivacious young woman who will do well at whatever she tries.
We watch them practice their free-throws for weeks. Their principal says it isn't luck that makes a winner; it is practice, focus and determination.

As in most successful documentaries, there is a twist at the end that left us sooooo impressed! Plus they report "What Happened Afterwards" on each of the contestants. What a welcome feature THAT is, because we have come to care about each of these youngsters.