May 25, 2015

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A Promising Young Basketball Star Learns to Live “Off the Rez” | DVD Pick

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offtherezOff the Rez. 86 min. Dist. by Cinema Guild. 2012, released in 2014. $99.95. ISBN 0781506220.
Gr 7 Up–High school basketball star Shoni Schimmel, a household name in Native communities throughout North America, has reached the apex of her sport, which is deftly documented in this film. Oregon’s Umatilla Indian Reservation is Shoni’s home before her mother, Ceci, accepts a high school coaching job in Portland, hundreds of miles away. Starting her junior year there, Shoni, her six siblings and mother relocate to the city, uprooting all but the father, and somehow Ceci provides security and a positive outlook. She knows Shoni’s exceptional talent (and the possible attention of scouts) warrants this upheaval—Shoni wants to be the first on her reservation to attend college. She’s a starting guard on the Portland team, which her mother now coaches. Her sister Jude also plays, and the two catapult their team to its first playoffs in decades. Still, academic and societal pressures are real. Ignoring racial bias from rival teams and even referees, plus living far from the reservation, are huge challenges. Additionally, the father loses his job, exacerbating financial matters. But Shoni’s fabulous court skills propel her to a spot among the top 100 best female basketball athletes. Though she procrastinates selecting a college from a mountain of enticing letters, she finally announces her choice at graduation to immense cheers. In the film, contemporary reservation realities expose the severe setbacks Native families face. This story reflects many truths facing an outstanding athlete, who will not be subdued.–Robin Levin, Fort Washakie School/Community Library, WY

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