Friday, September 4, 2015

The Business of Amateurs (2015) Portland 2015

Bob DeMars's THE BUSINESS OF AMATEURS (BOA)is one of the most important  films of 2015 if not one of the best. Its is one of the best sports documentaries of recent vintage. Its as good as, if not better than any of the fine documentaries that HBO Sports puts out or ESPN makes for it's 30 for 30 series. Leave it to an ex-student athlete to rattle the pillars of heaven, or the NCAA, by quietly stating everything that is wrong with the status quo.

BOA lays it all out, from injuries, to not getting paid or being able to pay your bills, the inability to sell memorabilia, the loss of scholarships, and the bogus degrees many athletes graduate with. The film leaves nothing out showing you everything dark and hidden by the colleges and the NCAA. This is a film that shows very clearly how the athletes are being abused on all levels by the universities because they are not allowed to watch out for themselves, not are they allowed to have anyone help them.

While the film doesn't really layout anything new in how the colleges and universities are raping their student athletes in the name of profits, it does a couple of things that no one else has ever done or done this well- first it lays it all out simply and directly. Starting with the director's own injury the film spins out what the NCAA is doing or in many cases not doing for athletes. It lays out where it came from and why it is what it is. If you've been following any stories on the business of college sports you've run across a lot of this- but never as simply and completely put together. DeMars has put it all in one place and seeing it all together is terrifying- we're actually letting people do this?

The other thing the film does is it makes it personal and not sensational. DeMars starts with a story that begins with his story and then brings in people he knew and people he's met before casting the net wider and wider. By making it personal DeMars allows us to connect to the people in the film and the stories. We are not lectured at, we are not told in a sensational way, instead the film is like sitting around the kitchen table with friends who are telling us their stories. The result is to make everything we see be ten times more affecting. Some of this will kick your legs out from under you.

I suspect that some people may get upset that the film covers way too much,  They will ask why are we talking about student degrees when there is  so much on injuries? Because it's all connected. This is the first time that I've seen some one show the whole canvas and its shocking in its size despite having seen all of the pieces before.

Most amazingly is that DeMars doesn't just focus on the bad. Toward the end of the film DeMars makes it clear that not only are things changing for the better. Almost all of the athletes who are interviewed express their love for their schools and their sports. They are fighting not only for their own rights and their own health but because they love their schools and want to make them better. Its a small thing that kind of seems strangely out of place in a film so full of the wrongs, but at the same time it beautifully explains why everyone is doing what they are doing and fighting to change things.

I was moved by this film. I've seen it twice now and I'm kind of in awe at how it all comes together.

This is a must see film for anyone who likes sports, and even more so if you know anyone who plays college sports

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