Review: ‘Shooting For Home’ a static, sedate look at Gainesville pariah
Published: Friday, August 23, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 5:11 p.m.
For a movie with the word “home” in the title, the documentary “Shooting For Home” shows curiously little of its best material: Seeing Gainesville basketball phenom-turned-pariah Kevin Bradshaw’s return home after a 20-year exodus abroad. As it is, the story “Shooting For Home” chooses to tell and how it’s told keeps the film from excelling.
‘Shooting For Home’
Starring: Kevin Bradshaw, Keith Bradshaw and David Robinson
A brief recap, for those (like myself, admittedly) who may be unfamiliar with Bradshaw’s story: A Gainesville native, Bradshaw grew up on the east side of town and played basketball at Buchholz High School alongside future University of Florida and NBA star Vernon Maxwell. The two of them became sensations and were both pressured to go to UF, but only Maxwell did, while Bradshaw absconded to Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach. After flunking out of school and a brief Navy career, Bradshaw wound up at U.S. International University in San Diego, where he set an NCAA record for points scored in a single Division I basketball game with 72 points, breaking the old mark of 69 points set by the legendary Pete Maravich.
And then he disappeared for 20 years, taking off for Israel to play and coach basketball while putting his life together. This is where the documentary comes in; its purported purpose is to fill us in on Bradshaw’s post-USIU life as well as show us his eventual return home. Unfortunately, flaws in both technique and content keep “Shooting For Home” from being as compelling as it could be or should be.
From a technical perspective, the biggest mistake director Greg Kappy makes is to keep the proceedings almost entirely static. While there are some video highlights and archival photos, the vast majority of the documentary is Bradshaw and his friends, former coaches, family members and others talking to the camera on a set. The overall effect is one of being lectured at, making the documentary dull to watch.
This is not to say there aren’t some interesting revelations, particularly when it comes to how Bradshaw was courted by various schools to play college ball.
Bradshaw tells us that former UF basketball coach Norm Sloan berated him for being a terrible student, then offered him a scholarship anyway and said that grades could be fixed. He also says schools tried to ply him with drugs and, as he delicately puts it, “certain females ... that are known to help support the basketball program.”
Other notable moments include Bradshaw’s descriptions of race relations during his early years in Gainesville (a teacher once told him “All you [expletive] are dumb”), and his encounter with future NBA all-star David Robinson during his time in the Navy, which eventually led him to USIU. The movie also does an effective job of sketching his career playing Israeli pro basketball, during which he met his current wife and had a son.
However, all of these anecdotes are undercut a bigger, more fundamental issue: Prior to his departure to Israel, Bradshaw’s story is (sadly) familiar and cliché.
This isn’t to say you don’t have empathy for Bradshaw; he’s candid about how his drug use and other personal failings hindered him from reaching his full potential, and he’s upfront about the fact he came from a broken home. But the sad truth is that we’ve seen this type of story all too often: Athlete with tremendous potential squanders it, has to redeem himself. Combined with the fact that movie consists almost entirely of people telling us Bradshaw’s story instead of finding a way to invite us into his life, it never rises above the level of “interesting.”
“Shooting For Home” gives us a glimpse of what it could’ve been in its final moments. After a teary reunion with his family (in which, bizarrely, we don’t get so much as a word from his mother, younger brother or sister), Bradshaw takes his wife and son to the Buchholz gym. There he shows them the banners celebrating his accomplishments, which in spite of his bitterness toward Gainesville still bring him noticeable pride. Then we see him with his son as his son tries to shoot some hoops; they talk about possibly moving to Gainesville so the younger Bradshaw can follow in his father’s footsteps.
It’s a moving moment, one of the few in which we see Bradshaw living his life instead of talking about it. You just wish there had been a lot more of those moments in the movie.