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Don’t be fooled: Hoop Dreams, director Steve James’ 1994 documentary about two young men from the Chicago projects desperate for basketball glory, is not your typical sports movie. During the span of four high school years—which translates into three lightning-quick hours of film time—William Gates (pictured) and Arthur Agee maneuver through a battlefield of absent fathers, welfare mothers, jealous brothers, seductive drug dealers, and one mammoth asshole of a varsity coach, all for the slim-chance salvation of suiting up in the NBA. James rarely resorts to cinematic manipulation: The twists of life that pound these likable but naive guys every day provide enough heartbreaking drama. With partial scholarships in hand, Gates and Agee begin their young b-ball careers at the prestigious Catholic high school St. Joseph’s, where, we are reminded again and again, Detroit Pistons legend Isaiah Thomas got his start. But all too soon, the dreams of both players are derailed, and their chances for survival, both on and off the court, get that much slimmer. (In one scene, Agee, kicked out of St. Joe’s for failure to pay tuition, watches helplessly as his deadbeat dad slinks away from a quickie reunion and, waving a thick roll of bills in front of the camera, walks into a drug buy.) The breathtaking finale is neither a last-second shot nor a big-game breakthrough, but something, after four years of hell, that is much more captivating: a tear-drenched embrace by the two heroes full of agony, relief, and hope. At 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10, at American University’s School of International Service Lounge, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Free. (202) 885-2421. (Sean Daly)