HotDocs ’24: Rouge

Directed by Hamoody Jaafar, Rouge steps behind the walls of River Rouge high school and into the world of competitive high school basketball. With a legacy of 14 state championships, River Rouge is hungry for another and Rouge follows its current coach and players who yearn to bring home another trophy. Meanwhile, the film also taps into the school’s storied history has older legends share stories of victory and challenges of the past.

In the best of ways, Rouge elicits memories of the widely-loved, classic doc, Hoop Dreams. In both films, we watch as NBA-hopefuls leave everything on the court with the dreams of glories—and both have their own layer of tragedy within them. Although featuring highlights into the wins and lessons that the young men face during their season, Jaafar keeps his focus on the lives of the players. In this way, he reminds the viewer of the very real issues that these players face. Ranging from struggles in their education to the shock of the pandemic, each one of these players is challenged to keep focused on the court, even when the world disrupts their plans.

However, Rouge is also much more than a story of a basketball team. By tapping into the history of the school, Jaafar recognizes the ways that playing sports can create moments of justice. Through its elevation of African-American players and coaches, River Rouge has a history of elevating its players, despite the toxicity of racial intolerance. In these moments, Rouge reveals the power of playing with confidence and pride while exhibiting the power of equity.

By tapping into their passion to compete, there’s a fire within Rouge that burns brightly within its subjects. Each one of these players and coaches want to win but, at the same time, they understand that true victory also happens off the court.

To hear our interview with Hamoody Jaafar and Legend Geeter, click here.

Rouge is playing at HotDocs ’24. For more information, click here

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