Time’s Schickel boosts James’ “Stevie”

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Steve James is the auteur of “Stevie,” documentary winner at Sundance, Toronto and Amsterdam.

The venerable dean of film criticism, Time Magazine’s Richard Schickel, thoughtfully praised director Steve James’ “Stevie” in his March 28 review of the two-hour doc.

Filmed over a seven-year period by James, “Stevie” is another winner from the house of Kartemquin, for the past 30 years the master of the provocative social doc.

Most particularly, the Kartemquin crew and James are famed for their 1994 feature length “Hoop Dreams” that coulda shoulda won an Academy Award that year.

When James was in college, he was a Big Brother to Steve Fielding, starting when Stevie was 11-years old. When James sought him out after “Hoop Dreams,” writes Schickel, “What he found living in a bleak Illinois hamlet was a human about as messed up as it is possible to be.

Steve James’s ‘little brother’, a troubled young boy named Stevie.

“James becomes a figure in his own film, guilt-ridden about his earlier abandonment of Stevie, but still the only person present capable of offering him sensible, always unheeded, counsel as Stevie’s case (he’s in jail for sexually abusing his young niece) wends towards sentencing.”

While downtrodden Stevie has virtually no redeeming qualities, Schickel asks: “Can one recommend this unblinking film to the average moviegoer, out for a good time?

“Only in this way,” Schickel declares. “If James and his crew can spend years with these blighted souls, surely you can spend two hours with them, exploring compassion’s outer limits.”

Heed Schickel’s advice and see “Stevie,” released by Lions Gate Films now playing in selected Chicago area theatres.–Ed M. Koziarski, edk@homesickblues.com

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