Steve James is best known as the producer and director of Hoop Dreams, a documentary film that follows the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional. The film won every major critic’s prize of 1994, as well as the Director’s Guild of America Award, the George Foster Peabody Award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. Hoop Dreams was named to the Library of Congress National Film Registry, signifying its enduring importance to the history of film.
James’s other award-winning films include Stevie, which won numerous festivals and landed on a dozen 10-best lists for 2003; the miniseries The New Americans, winner of the 2004 Independent Documentary Association Award for “The Best Limited Series”; At the Death House Door, which won numerous festival awards and was nominated for a Director’s Guild of America Award; and No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson for ESPN’s Peabody and IDA award-winning “30 for 30” series.
James’s 2011 film, The Interrupters—the story of three “violence interrupters” who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once took part in—was a hit on the festival circuit and won several top festival prizes. It took the two top Cinema Eye Awards for “Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking” and “Best Direction” and won the duPont-Columbia Journalism Award, an Emmy, and the Independent Spirit Award. The Interrupters was listed on over 60 “2011 Best Films of the Year” lists, including those published by Time, the New Yorker, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, Slate, and the Los Angeles Times. It was also named “Best Documentary of the Year” in both the IndieWire and Village Voice national critic’s polls.
James’s most recent documentary, Life Itself, is about the life and career of Chicago movie critic Roger Ebert.
It was James’s sixth film to premiere at Sundance, where it received an outstanding reception. Los Angeles Times, Hollywood Reporter, Entertainment Weekly, and Variety all listed it as one of the best films of the 2014 festival. Life Itself
is set for theatrical release this summer.
James’s commitment to excellence in the field of communication and keen sense for truths that resonate with others and build awareness about the human condition exemplify Jesuit values, allowing stories to be told about people whose voices otherwise might not be heard.