Andre Braugher is Father Verrette, a black priest who, in the 1960s, moves from Baltimore into the Deep South as a high school history teacher. When he begins coaching the school's basketball team, he raises the ire of the local white racists, who do not want his team to play the all-white high school in the championship basketball game. Verrette is torn in many directions as he attempts to do what in his heart he believes to be right, despite the objections of others.
This is more than a basketball movie. It is a story about a troubled priest torn between the teachings of the Catholic church and the limitations placed on him based on his profession while at the same time trying to take a stand against the rampant racism of the time period. This concept is best illustrated by a scene in which Father Verrette is refused service in a restaurant on the basis of his skin color. The tension in this scene gives viewers a sense of the mix of anger, fear, and hatred that pervaded the time period.
Braugher, as always, is wonderful, and the supporting cast of unknowns who play his students are equally good. The legendary Ruby Dee makes an appearance as the family member of one of the students who provides wisdom and reassurance as the team makes their way through the basketball season. The predictable ending, set to the strains of "The Times They are a Changin'," feels a little contrived, but the overall message of tolerance and sportsmanship is not lost. Be sure to stick around for the brief update that informs viewers of the positive change this historic game brought about.
The screenplay for this film was written by Harold Sylvester, who was a member of the real-life team that Father Verrett coached. Steve James, best known for the acclaimed modern day documentary Hoop Dreams, directed. This makes for a powerful combination, between James's feel for the game and Sylvester's real-life experience. Also notable is the presence of executive producers Quincy Jones and Earvin "Magic" Johnson.
Passing Glory originally aired on TNT, and it is a shame that it was overlooked in the glut of sports films that have achieved greater prominence, such as Remember the Titans, Rudy, and Coach Carter. Braugher is truly a gifted actor, and it is a shame he has not found big screen prominence along with contemporaries such as Denzel Washington and Samuel L. Jackson.
The picture on this disc is quite good, considering that Passing Glory was a made-for-television movie. The colors, though muted to convey a sense of time and place, are sharp, and the overall picture is crisp.
The sound, which is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, is adequate throughout most of the film, but it truly comes alive during the thrilling basketball scenes.
No extras are available on this release, which is a shame. It would have been nice to see a featurette on the making of the film, considering the fact that it was based on a true story.
A solid film that is a must-own for basketball fans or anyone who is interested in what life was like on the brink of the Civil Rights Movement.