Though it was a slow year for sports-related feature films, two documentaries made a trip to the multiplex (or art-house theater) worthwhile. Ballplayer: Pelotero tells the story of two teenage Dominican baseball players with dreams of signing major league contracts. The parallels to Hoop Dreams are abundant: two protagonists, one outgoing and one reserved, trying to use sports to escape poverty while surrounded by adults whose motives are not transparent. And the result is similar: a stark film that raises awareness of the troubling manner in which young athletes are often handled. Head Games, from Hoop Dreams director Steve James, also tackles a serious issue—concussions—by humanizing it. He spent time with ex-athletes, up-and-comers and the family of a college football player who committed suicide, producing an arresting film that could make up for the Oscar snub James experienced in 1995, when despite near-universal critical acclaim, Hoop Dreams wasn't even nominated in the documentary feature category. In a year in which the feel-good sports movie was absent, these two films at least made audiences feel something. —Mark Bechtel
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