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  • Summary: From a basketball academy in West Africa to the high-pressure world of American prep schools, Elevate documents the extraordinary personal journeys of four particularly tall West African teenagers with big hearts, open minds, and NBA dreams. The Seeds Academy in Dakar, Senegal, sits on aFrom a basketball academy in West Africa to the high-pressure world of American prep schools, Elevate documents the extraordinary personal journeys of four particularly tall West African teenagers with big hearts, open minds, and NBA dreams. The Seeds Academy in Dakar, Senegal, sits on a small plot of land leased from the government. There, the best young basketball players from across West Africa gather to take part in a strenuous program of academics and athletic training. For those who stand out, the potential reward is huge: full scholarships to the top prep schools in the United States, where the right combination of skill and dedication will earn them a great education, pave the way to college, and open the door to basketball at the NCAA level… and maybe even a shot at the NBA. Elevate follows four young men who make the cut, receive scholarships, and head off to the USA. Filmed over four years and across two continents, Elevate documents the daunting challenges they face, from the alienation that comes with being a seven foot tall Muslim at a Christian prep school (in an American culture rife with African stereotypes) to mastering English, adapting to aggressive American-style basketball… and navigating the vagaries of
    high school, girls, and drivers ed. A heartwarming documentary that inspires without preaching, Elevate challenges the audience’s conception of Africa, America, and athletes–while putting a smile on their face at the same time. (Variance Films)
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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 5 out of 8
  2. Negative: 0 out of 8
  1. Reviewed by: John Anderson
    Oct 16, 2011
    80
    Hoop dreams die hard, and the stories in Elevate are both sobering and thrilling.
  2. Reviewed by: Aaron Hillis
    Oct 18, 2011
    80
    Four years, two continents, and a whole lot of culture shock in the making, Anne Buford's endearing and vibrantly photographed hoop-dreams doc follows a quartet of gifted West African teens from the SEEDS Academy (Sports for Education and Economic Development in Senegal) as they head to the U.S. on basketball scholarships.
  3. Reviewed by: Andy Webster
    Oct 20, 2011
    80
    Mr. Fall, a former scout for the Dallas Mavericks, founded the Seeds Academy to nurture his countrymen. His conviction, level gaze and firm eloquence instill pride, drive and determination in his players. Mr. Fall, a coach on the court and in life, is the real champion here.
  4. Reviewed by: Gary Goldstein
    Nov 3, 2011
    70
    It's all presented with equal parts humor and sensitivity, though Buford doesn't much delve into the potential landmines here - racism, classism, exploitation - allowing the power of assimilation and opportunity to carry the day.
  5. Reviewed by: Joe Neumaier
    Oct 21, 2011
    60
    One of the many beautiful things about this affecting, informative doc is the opportunity it gives to see the American college sports world through different eyes.
  6. Reviewed by: Nick Schager
    Oct 19, 2011
    50
    Long on hopefulness but short on sobering realities, Elevate proves a compelling if superficial look at the arduous path traveled by Senegalese teens hoping to make it to America for a higher education and an NBA career.
  7. Reviewed by: Andrew Schenker
    Oct 18, 2011
    40
    Elevate works as a sympathetic portrait of cultural adjustment (learning in a nonnative language, sticking to Muslim dietary restrictions), but never adequately addresses the problems of what's essentially a neocolonialist system designed to shape impoverished Africans into first-world profit-makers.

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