The Heart of the Game (12A) <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

As indifferent as I am to basketball, this documentary about a Seattle high school girls' team, the Roosevelt Rough Riders, is diverting and occasionally very funny. The wild card of Ward Serrill's film is a fiftysomething college tax professor, Bill Resler, who becomes the girls' basketball coach at Roosevelt High. A paunchy, mild-mannered fellow, once Bill gets on the court he's a man possessed, delivering team talks notable for their unbridled animal savagery. "Get your teeth in their necks!" he yells from the sidelines, having persuaded his young charges that in order to win they must act like wolves or lions - and treat their opponents as prey. "Devour the moose!" he cries, like Ahab chasing the whale.

His star player, Darnellia Russell, is the film's other focal point, a tough inner-city teen with a star's temper, yet her wilfulness and Resler's careful prompting are seen to be touchingly complementary. Not quite the distaff Hoop Dreams, but good enough.