Through The Fire

Through The Fire (2005)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Sebastian Telfair
Extras: Audio Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Extended Interviews, Featurettes

Documentaries usually pull us in and in many cases, educate and entertain us with subjects that we might have never taken the time to explore. "Through the Fire" is just that sort of presentation, a documentary that follows a young Sebastian Telfair through his record breaking High School years of playing basketball. Becoming a virtual hero of sorts to his Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn, everyone gets caught up in the excitement as Sebastian follows the natural progression from High School to University basketball, setting his sights on becoming the newest addition of the Louisville Cardinals. Remaining focused, Sebastian knows that there is also the chance that he could be scooped up by the NBA, bypassing the usual time spent playing for a University team. Only a select few are given this chance every year by the professional league, so continually playing like a champion and allowing nothing to get in the way of your teams next big win, is a surefire way to get you noticed by those in the business that matter.

The one thing I had a hard time grasping is the tradition of mega sports companies, such as Reebok, Nike and Adidas that are on the prowl for the stars of tomorrow, even down to the High School level. I don't have a problem with the entire concept in general, but as Sebastian garners a contract with Adidas to become their latest spokesman as well as getting their newest designer sneaker branded with his name, all worth a reported $6-$10 Million! Now is it just me or is that a bit excessive? The idea of rewarding these so-called "stars of tomorrow" with such monetary gains, all before they have even proven themselves on a professional level is simply ludicrous! Then again, such is life in big league professional sports. I am a sports fan myself, but I feel that to be a little over the top, especially when you start to see the cockiness shown in Sebastian's attitude after winning the contract with Adidas. This alone caused me to lose some of the enthusiasm that I was sporting for the young basketball player as we wait it out to the end of the presentation to see if he becomes the newest draft pick for the 2004 NBA season. All in all, "Through the Fire" is a well made sports documentary that should appeal to anyone who enjoys rooting for the underdog.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment releases the ESPN original documentary "Through the Fire" in a befitting transfer. Almost certainly, this documentary was shot using digital video rather than film, as the final exhibition displays certain harshness. Color saturation and black levels are nicely rendered throughout the presentation. There is visual evidence of aliasing and poor video compression noticeable in the form of grain, but the transfer remains clear of any distracting dust or dirt particles.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is a bit excessive. The only channel that is continually active is the center channel, as this documentary is mostly dialogue driven. The left and right channels of the mix are utilized, but the soundtrack never really entertains the surround or lower frequency channels. Vocals become distorted and almost unbearable at times; especially in the presence of larger volumes of cheering. Overall soundtrack is acceptable, given that "Through the Fire" is an independent documentary and not a big-budgeted Hollywood blockbuster.

I was quite surprised at the vast amount of special features included with this DVD release. If you so desire more information regarding the material presented within this presentation, there is a full length audio commentary from director Jonathan Hock and cinematographer Alastair Christopher. A selection of deleted scenes, extended interviews and a basketball highlights section are all available for the viewer seeking more information pertaining to the subject being profiled.

Under the featurettes section, you will find a "Q & A" with Sebastian Telfair during the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival, along with a short presentation titled "Excerpt from "The Life" with Stephon Marbury".

Going through the special features section, I stumbled upon a nicely placed "hidden feature". Simply go to the "special features" menu, toggle the right arrow key on your DVD players remote to highlight the number "31" featured on Sebastian's basketball jersey, and then press enter. Once there, you will be treated to a short clip of Sebastian and teammates attempting a basketball trick move.

Although not the best sports documentary that I have ever seen, "Through the Fire" does the sport of basketball justice by displaying a good dose of emotion, wrapped up in an entertaining and informative presentation.