A vicious cycle is defined as a chain
of events in which the response to one difficulty creates a new
problem that aggravates the original difficulty. Thus is the perceived
life on the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Eastern Oregon. But Shoni
Schimmel changed all that.
Schimmel, who just finished her freshman
season as the starting point guard at the University of Louisville,
had to overcome stereotypes, slurs and financial hardships to make
it to where she is today think Hoop Dreams meets Glory Road.
And in Jonathan Hocks latest documentary, Off the Rez, that
premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival Tuesday night, youre
taken along for the unforgettable ride.
After playing her first two years at Hermiston
(Ore.) High School near her home on the rez, Shoni quickly became
known as one of the best high school basketball players in the country.
But in order to make the jump to the next level, she and her family
which consists of seven brothers and sisters knew
that theyd have to move three hours east to Portland.
Transferring to Franklin High School for
her junior and senior seasons, Shoni was not alone, as her mother,
Ceci Moses, took over as the head girls basketball coach. Leading
by example, showing her children not to limit their dreams, the
story that unfolds is riveting, as mother and daughter battle against
all the odds.
The mother-daughter relationship
is so complicated, says Kelly Ripa, co-host of LIVE! with
Regis and Kelly and executive producer of the film. While many people
might see Ceci a former high school basketball star in her
own right living vicariously through her children for the
opportunities that werent afforded to her, Ripa notes that
it becomes evident that her children are actually living through
While the basketball highlights are incredible
Shoni finished her senior year averaging 29.8 points, 9.0
rebounds, 7.3 assists and 5.5 steals along with 2,120 points for
her career, ranking her sixth on Oregons all-time scoring
list its the story that keeps you glued to the screen.
As so many people before her were said to be conditioned to
fail, Shoni becomes larger than the game she loves; a symbol
for her teammates, her family and Native Americans all over. A modern-day
Through a multigenerational story, Hock
captures Shoni and her family at their highest peaks and lowest
valleys. From a broken foot midway through her junior year to the
bank foreclosing on their Portland home just hours before a pivotal
state playoff game, the obstacles they overcome only make you cheer
for them harder.
We were concerned about her ankle
junior year and the financial trouble after the season, says
Hock about the struggles of dedicating two years and 96 days of
shooting to the project. But this family laid it all on the
You have got to believe, adds
Moses. When I was growing up, I wasnt told about college.
Scholarships take you places. I want to teach people, You
can do this.
With the dream of becoming the first from
her tribe to get a college scholarship, its ironic that it
takes Shoni until her high school graduation to make a decision.
But its this indecision that drives the film. Will she fall
victim to the vicious cycle and stay on the rez? Is she conditioned
to fail like so many people think she and other Native Americans
are? Or will she take a chance, leave her comfort zone and go away
Adds Ripa, The fear of the unknown
can be so paralyzing.
Fortunately, the risk paid off. This year,
Shoni averaged 15.1 points and a team-high 4.9 assists per game for
the Lady Cardinals, and was named a First Team Freshman All-American
by Full Court Press. She was also a unanimous selection to the Big
East All-Freshman team and earned Big East Honorable Mention honors,
leading the league (and 24th in the nation) in three-point field goals
made with 2.8 per game.
One of Shonis greatest concerns
when picking a college far away was that her family wouldnt
be able to see her play. As fate would have it, her last game of
the season a Sweet 16 matchup with Gonzaga in nearby Spokane,
Wash. allowed her whole family to come and watch. For the
Tournament, Shoni led the team and all freshmen in scoring with
23.3 points per game.
In 2005, Hock premiered Through the Fire,
a film that followed the journey of high school phenom Sebastian
Telfair, at the Tribeca Film Festival. Six years later, he tells
a similar tale only this time he shows you that ghettos and
dreams arent just found in the inner-city.
Off the Rez will
premiere on Saturday, May 14 at 9 p.m. EST on TLC