Not being a huge fan of the NBA, though I do enjoy the occasional excitement of Lebron and the Cavs, the life of Allen Iverson seemed inconsequential to me. That was until I watched No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson. Director Steven James (Oscar nominee for Hoop Dreams) forced the issue of racism and racial violence into direct conversation, both in his film interviews and at the Lights! Cameras! Action Steps! film forum last night.
The documentary depicts the turbulent upbringing of the NBA superstar in Hampton, VA (also the hometown of Steven James). From a distance, Iverson’s youth looks like the iconic rags to riches success story, but buried in his past and in the hearts and minds of those in Hampton is the trial. James uncovers the story of the racially driven violence that erupted between a group of black high school students (Iverson allegedly included) and group of white students at a bowling alley, which resulted in Iverson being accused of knocking out a white female with a chair. The resulting trial ripped the community apart along racial and economic class lines, and almost ended Iverson’s sports career with a 15 year prison sentence.
James successfully dissected the issues and brought to light the problems which have been fueling racism in Hampton and around the country, the issues which no one wants to talk about. In my opinion, it was hard to follow the characters and course of events throughout the film and I was disappointed that some characters, including Iverson, would not be interviewed in regards to the incident. But those who were willing to comment displayed their own stubborn biases. Even James and his mother expressed their experience with racism and stereotypes. In a world where racism is supposedly something from the past, it was rare to see this level of conversation, even if it was met with resistance.
The following film forum, including James and equality advocates from the Cleveland area, was also representative of the friction met by open discussion of race. Cutting through the PC banter and polite terminology, I would distill the conversation into two themes; appreciate cultural differences and be aware of your own biases. The most interesting commentary I heard was from James when he discussed his own biases and how he how he can subconsciously act upon them. Overall, the film and forum were informative and interesting, and I look forward to the rest of the film forums.