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Aptly timed, Marc Levin’s new documentary about a high school basketball team premiered at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema in Manhattan, prior to airing on HBO Sports this October 25th at 9 p.m. ET.
In Prayer for a Perfect Season, award-winning documentary filmmaker Levin returned to his home state to chronicle the 2010-2011 season of the St. Patrick’s Celtics of Elizabeth, New Jersey. The Celtic’s aim is to win the national championship, and the film’s finale unfolds during the last decisive match against their long-time rivals from St. Anthony High School in Jersey City.
But the feature-length documentary – crafted in solid, tried and tested television manner (a familiar mix of establishing shots, explanatory inserts, archive footage, situational sequences, and seated interviews with sports journalists and other authorities) – accounts for more than just the journal of a high school basketball team. The triumphs and tragedies of sport are merely the backdrop for a decisive chapter in the lives of the films’ protagonists.
Veteran coach Kevin Boyle and his stars Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Derrick Gordon (both now freshmen at Kentucky and Western Kentucky, respectively), are portrayed as they traverse an emotionally-challenging year, especially on the personal level. Boyle needs to decide whether to leave St. Patrick and head for a better paying job in Florida. Kidd-Gilchrist struggles with his uncle’s sudden and premature death. (His father was shot dead when Michael was just a toddler.) And Gordon has a hard time coming to terms with his twin brother’s incarceration in a youth correctional facility. All this while St. Patrick High itself fights for survival in times of daunting insolvency, and the overall decline of Catholic school programs nationwide.
At the end of the not-too-perfect season, each protagonist – coach, players, their friends and loved-ones alike – has completed a hero’s journey. St. Patrick will not be the same as everyone sets out for the next chapters of their lives, ready to confront the triumphs and tragedies that inevitably await them.