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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Award-winning Filmmaker Steve James Talks About College, Films and Basketball

Steve James will be showing his 2002 documentary, STEVIE, as part of the UMass Boston Film Series, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. in the Campus Center Ballroom

Steve James will be showing his 2002 documentary, STEVIE, as part of the UMass Boston Film Series, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. in the Campus Center Ballroom

The next film to be shown as part of the UMass Boston Film Series is STEVIE, which was directed and produced by Steve James.
James has been working on films for over 25 years, and is best known for his 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams. In an email exchange, The Mass Media had an off-the-cuff Q&A with James.
 What was college like when you went? 
Once I sobered up and got bored watching fellow students streak (yes, it was that long ago), college actually became the place where I decided I wanted to at least try to be a smart person, instead of a guy who did the bare minimum to get by.
 Alcoholic Beverage of choice?
 I’m a gin martini guy these days, but I also like a quality tequila.
What made you decide to have your film be shown at UMass Boston? 
STEVIE is a film that’s near and dear to me. I love that a film that’s over 10 years old is getting another chance before an audience.  The best Q&As of all my films have been with this film.
Had you ever been to Boston before? If so, what did you think of it?  
I’ve been to Boston numerous times over the years and have always thought it was a great city.  It’s got history, a great sports tradition (I was a Celtic fan in my youth growing up in Virginia – go figure), it’s a manageable size, and perhaps best of all, it’s an inexpensive cab ride from the airport.
Who’s your favorite Celtic? 
Bill Russell was my hero growing up. Something about his greatness as a player coupled with his dignity as a black athlete really hooked me as a kid. My nickname on my high school team was “Hondo,” after you know who. Not because I was anywhere near as good, but because I was a white player of an in-between size. 
What’s your favorite movie? If it’s a documentary, what’s your favorite non-documentary movie?  
That’s impossible to answer, like asking something crazy like what’s your favorite food.  Among my favorite non-documentaries are Rules of the Game, Vertigo, Raging Bull, Barry Lyndon, Last Tango in Paris … Films that a long time ago made me want to become a filmmaker.
What’s your favorite food?  
Touché.  Impossible, but I once had sole sautéed in butter and lemon to perfection.  Actually, I had it about five times from this particular restaurant.
Favorite color?  
As a kid, red was my favorite.  These days, I’m feeling more green.  Forest green, mind you.
I stole these next few questions from James Lipton’s Inside the Actors Studio.
Favorite swear word? 
Motherfucker.  I rarely use it, but it offers the most varied and expressive possibilities.
When you die and go to heaven, what would you like God to say to you? 
I’m not a believer, so if I do end up in heaven, I hope God will say he forgives me.
What’s your ringtone?
 Just one of those iPhone ones that comes with them.
How many songs do you have on your iPod, and who is your favorite artist? 
I’m not sure how many I have because my kids have kindly loaded it up with a bunch of music they like that they think I’ll like.  You’re really into this “favorite” thing, aren’t you?  I can’t possibly say, but among those I never get tired of listening to are Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Patti Smith and Radiohead.
 Who’s going to win the NBA championship?
 Miami, I’m afraid.  The Thunder aren’t as good this year as last since they traded Harden. And the Western conference teams will beat each other up getting to the finals.
 Lebron or Jordan? 
I’m a Chicago man, Bulls fan, so it’s Jordan.  Not just for all the rings, but because he made plays that you couldn’t believe possible.  Lebron is undeniably great and one day may be considered the greatest, but he’ll be standing on Jordan’s shoulders to get there.
When do you know to turn on the camera for a documentary?  
When something really interesting is happening.
When do you know to shut off the camera? 
When what is happening no longer interests me because either the moment has passed or it’s repeating itself.  
 You’re a documentary filmmaker.  Any desire to make scripted features?  
Well, Daniel, if you had done your homework as a journalist before putting together this … stellar list of questions, you’d know that I’ve made one feature film and a couple of cable movies already.  
 First off…OK, Dad. Second … how bad were you at homework in college? 
I became better at homework once I got “religion” and decided I wanted to be a good student. Heed my advice, young Daniel.
 Have you ever tried to make that bong Stevie made in the film? For the readers, please describe Stevie’s bong in detail? 
I have never made a bong in my life. Stevie made his from one of those little airline liquor bottles – whisky, I believe?  Do young people still call them one-hitters?
What are you working on now? 
In production is a biography of Roger Ebert. In development is a film about food sustainability with writer Raj Patel.  
STEVIE is a tragic story about a man who James was once a big brother to.  After 10 years of not seeing each other, James goes to visit him and finds that the once troubled boy is now a troubled man, who’s life is in disarray.
Ask Steve James your own questions Thursday, Feb. 28 in the Campus Center Ballroom, immediately following the free viewing of his film STEVIE at 7 p.m.