From acclaimed director Steve James, Head Games is a revealing documentary about the silent concussion crisis in American sports. Athletes from the professional to the youth levels share their personal struggles in dealing with the devastating and long-term effects of concussions, an epidemic fueled by the 'leave everything on the field' culture so prominent in American sport.
Steve James’ latest documentary is (unusually for the director of Hoop Dreams and The Interrupters) a straightforward but very effective issue film about the risks of head trauma in sports such as football and soccer.
Head Games is at its level best when it shows athletes (young and old) wrestling with their inability to reconcile what they are told with what they want–what they need–to be true.
You will never watch a football, soccer or hockey game the same way after seeing this Steve James ("Hoop Dreams") documentary about the country's concussion crisis. It puts faces, including some who passed through Steelers Nation only to meet tragic and premature ends, to a subject that shows no signs of disappearing at any level of play.
10 Best Documentaries: No 2. Head Games
This year's pick is not focused on a specific sport let alone a particular player or game. Steve James, best known for Hoop Dreams, directed yet another notable work with Head Games, which looks at the issue of concussions in sports, from football to girls' soccer. There's a fairly standard framework to it, but it's a very important topic at the moment and the film does a great job at presenting the clash of science and culture that is keeping this from being a straightforward matter.
Concussions and controversial hits have faded into the background thanks to the lockout, but head injuries are still a major concern and storyline in modern sports. Filmmaker Steve James (of “Hoop Dreams” fame) decided to tackle the issue of concussions in his 2011 documentary “Head Games,” which includes prominent appearances from Brendan Shanahan and Keith Primeau.
Head Games, from Hoop Dreams director Steve James, also tackles a serious issue—concussions—by humanizing it. He spent time with ex-athletes, up-and-comers and the family of a college football player who committed suicide, producing an arresting film that could make up for the Oscar snub James experienced in 1995, when despite near-universal critical acclaim, Hoop Dreams wasn't even nominated in the documentary feature category.
James, who in 1994 won awards for his film "Hoop Dreams," made sure hockey and the National Hockey League were prominently featured in "Head Games" because of the physical nature of the sport. What he found was a league willing to acknowledge the problems that can arise from concussions and one actively seeking applicable solutions.