Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Steve James, Stephen Fielding, Tonya Gregory, Bernice Hagler, Verna Hagler
Director: Steve James
In 1995 director steve james (hoop dreams) returned to rural southern illinois to reconnect with stevie fielding a troubled young boy he had been an advocate big brother to ten years earlier Studio: Lions Gate Home Ent. ... more »
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Couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen...
Diane Moore | 12/21/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Steve James, the director of Hoop Dreams, comes back to rural Illinois to make a movie about the little boy who became a man, Stevie Fielding. Steve J was his "Big Brother" once upon a time. He grew up with a mother that didn't want him, never knew his birth father, had a past of being abused and neglected, and basically was passed around all of the foster homes in Illinois. The movie focuses partially on the trouble that Stevie has gotten into over the years, and the pending prison time he may have to do, because of some alleged crime he had committed during filming. Stevie's life is a train wreck, impossible to turn away from. It is obvious that he has had severe emotional scars that have traveled with him into adulthood, and sometimes he just seems like a 28 year old child. He doesn't want to take responsibility for anything he has done. His life is an open book to those he talks to, as if he doesn't have any remorse for the major and minor crimes he has committed. When you meet his mother, you start to understand where the attitude stems from. This is a woman, who beat him when he was a child, couldn't handle him herself, and turned him over to his grandma, who wasn't really his blood grandmother at all, but his step-dad's mother. The mother feels that people are constantly blaming her, for things past and present. It does seem though, that she tries to reconcile with Stevie and her daughter (who she has caused similar harm) throughout the film. Maybe she realized that she has made some mistakes in the past and she is ready to fess up. Maybe she feels guilt. I think a lot of the people involved feel guilt, including Steve J. I really liked the honesty that went into it. Steve J. is like a Mr. Rogers, who is so sweet and kind, he seems a little timid at times, but very truthful. He asks Stevie, "do you feel that I abandoned you, when I moved away and stopped visiting you?" He was ready for the answer. I think that he's trying to make up for leaving him, because maybe he thinks that if he didn't leave him, Stevie wouldn't have turned out the way that he did. For children that have had such a harsh childhood, is there anything you can really do for them in adulthood that will bring back the trust that they have lost? I really don't know. Stevie seems to avoid showing emotion, he never cried once that I could see. At the same time, he seems to care about those close to him, including his girlfriend, who is disabled, but is clearly making better choices than him. I really loved Judy (the director's wife) in the film. Knowing her job description and what Stevie allegedly did, she seems to really care about him, and wants to help him. Whether or not Stevie is affected by any of the people who seem to care about him, I couldn't tell. He continually made bad choices, and his temper seemed to go up and down like a rollercoaster. One thing I will give him credit for, is the fact that he never laid a hand on his current fiance/girlfriend, because in his short-lived past marriage, he used to beat his wife. You realize that there are some mistakes that he has learned from. Towards the end, Stevie leaves the house and climbs a tree, and it once again reminds me that he is a child. What happens when a child does something so bad that it's hard to forgive? Can you separate the behavior from the child? I think that's something that I struggled with, while I was viewing the film. Like all good things, this had to come to an end. Not to spoil things, but, it didn't end happily. No matter what happens, it's good to know that people really do care about him, even though it he didn't find this out for many, many years."
Disturbing true story shows results of a troubled childhood
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 10/10/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I heard about this 2002 documentary by Steve James, the director who brought us "Hoop Dreams", I just had to see it. "Stevie" is a disturbing look at a tortured life of a blue-eyed blond child who had a rotten childhood and grew up to become an abuser himself. When the director was in college, he was a "big brother" to the little boy but later moved away. After ten years, he returned to meet up with Stevie, now an in his twenties. Stevie had been in every foster home in Southern Illinois and got in trouble in all of them. When we meet him, he is living with his step-grandmother, hates his mother, has had a short abusive marriage, has never held a steady job, and has a mentally retarded girlfriend. The film follows this troubled young man for 4-1/2 years and the director cannot help but take a good hard look at his own role in the film he is making. Right in front of us we see the result of years of neglect and abuse of the boy, now a man. He's angry, abuses alcohol and is sometimes violent. The setting is rural Illinois, a place of trailer camps, fundamentalist churches, fishing creeks, white supremacist culture, pickup trucks and unemployment. With the exception of Stevie's half-sister, who has a happy marriage and eventually has a baby, most of the people are sad and angry. It is not a pretty place to live.The film is 145 minutes long but it never lags. I was completely caught up in Stevie's life, my feelings ranging from pity to anger as it gradually became quite clear that Stevie's character was set for life and that there would be little, if any change. When he is charged with a crime, we see him fighting the justice system. Eventually, he loses. This is not surprising. If this were fiction, there would be some sort of contrived ending. But this is a documentary and all it does is tell the truth. I loved this fine film. It's full of honesty and courage. And I applaud the filmmaker for making it. I highly recommended it. But be prepared to plunge into Stevie's troubled world."
Steve and Stevie...
S. M. Robare | Duluth, GA USA | 04/04/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What I found most interesting about this documentary is that the filmmaker Steve James has a hard time separating himself from the subject Stevie. Whereas a lot of people walk away from this film feeling like Steve used Stevie's situation as an opportunity, I felt that the film was more of a reflection of how he feels that he's failed his "little brother". It would be easier for James to edit himself out of the film, to focus solely on Stevie and to take advantage of his situation, but instead he references himself shouldering some of the blame for the situation. I believe it was the filmmaker's intention to show himself at his most distasteful, it's part of the honestly of the film."
Glenn A. Buttkus | Sumner, WA USA | 02/09/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Steve James, the director of this exceptional documentary, has had a colorful career. He has directed a few feature films, but most often he returns to the cinematic form that he succeeded at best--the documentary. His biggest hit, in 1994, was HOOP DREAMS. STEVIE won a lot of accolades at Sundance in 2002, when it was released. James started filming it in 1995, and had to come back to it several times, while he worked on "money" projects to feed his family.
In 1985, as a college student, James was a Big Brother, and he was paired up with Stephen Dale Fielding, a very troubled 11-year old. Stevie was very disruptive and difficult to work with. Soon after, James graduated, and moved to Chicago, where he began his career as filmmaker and documentarian. In 1995, flush with the success of HOOP DREAMS, James returned to Pomona, Illinois, and looked up Stevie. He was greeted warily by a 21-year old shirtless youth, with thinning haystack hair, jail tattoos, oversized glasses, a Harley ballcap, and a cruel smirk. STEVIE was conceived as a film that would illustrate how society had failed this young man, but this raw reunion left James quite shaken. It took him two years to return with the energy and funding to continue filming.
By 1997, Stephen had taken the storyline off in a different direction, to a much darker place. He was in jail, accused of molesting an 8-year old girl that he had been babysitting. He had written a "confession" to the police. Later, after he got out on bail, while waiting for his trial, he pleaded innocent to all charges. The court, and his lawyer, offered him a "deal". If he were to plead guilty, and he would accept counseling, he could get off on probation, with just the time served. He turned down the deal.
Watching his eyes as he turned down the legal deal, one could sense the thickness of his arrogance, and the density of his ignorance. Like a child, he did not want to admit his guilt. He would deal with it by just denying it. And, of course, if he were ever convicted of the crime--he planned to commit suicide," taking a few cops with me." This was further proof of his naivete and immaturity. Stevie's crime catapulted this film into a downward spiral, dead-stick, right into the ground. It could go nowhere else.
Stephen's family and friends were the stuff of Faulkner fiction, the characters written about by Horton Foote, and other dramatic authors. Incest, abuse, rapes, beatings, foster homes, juvenile detention, reform schools, and then jail--these were the ingredients of Stephen's life. Did society let him down, and did the system let him slip through the cracks? Probably. Was he abused by his own mother, and by scores of foster parents--yes.
Was he then blameless as he turned into a shiftless drunken bully and thief? No, would be my view. As a kid, "Troublemaker" became his identity--his child's way of receiving attention and respect of the wrong kind from the wrong people. But it was his choice to become incorrigible, and to selfishly pursue his own needs regardless--even to the point of an incidence of child molestation.
As an audience, we were like passengers on a runaway train, white-knuckling our grasp on the seat in front of us, silently screaming as it thundered inexorably toward the end of the line, and an almost certain crash. It finally did. We were safe. We survived, but I doubt that Stevie did. It has been two years since he was placed in the penitentiary. He has probably been devoured by his own demons, or by the denizens of darkness that he was forced to lie down with."