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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen...
Steve James, the director of Hoop Dreams, comes back to rural Illinois to make a movie about the little boy who became a man, Stevie Fielding. Steve J was his "Big Brother" once upon a time. He grew up with a mother that didn't want him, never knew his birth father, had a past of being abused and neglected, and basically was passed around all of the foster homes...
Published on December 20, 2003 by Diane Moore

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Documentary
I bought the doumentary bc I like them. This was an interesting story. The price was right. I didnt care much for the drive the director had for making the movie. I felt it was just all about making the money and making a name for himself. Not for the fact that he cared about Stevie.
Published on September 11, 2012 by aussie1492


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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen..., December 20, 2003
This review is from: Stevie (DVD)
Steve James, the director of Hoop Dreams, comes back to rural Illinois to make a movie about the little boy who became a man, Stevie Fielding. Steve J was his "Big Brother" once upon a time. He grew up with a mother that didn't want him, never knew his birth father, had a past of being abused and neglected, and basically was passed around all of the foster homes in Illinois.
The movie focuses partially on the trouble that Stevie has gotten into over the years, and the pending prison time he may have to do, because of some alleged crime he had committed during filming.
Stevie's life is a train wreck, impossible to turn away from. It is obvious that he has had severe emotional scars that have traveled with him into adulthood, and sometimes he just seems like a 28 year old child. He doesn't want to take responsibility for anything he has done. His life is an open book to those he talks to, as if he doesn't have any remorse for the major and minor crimes he has committed.
When you meet his mother, you start to understand where the attitude stems from. This is a woman, who beat him when he was a child, couldn't handle him herself, and turned him over to his grandma, who wasn't really his blood grandmother at all, but his step-dad's mother. The mother feels that people are constantly blaming her, for things past and present. It does seem though, that she tries to reconcile with Stevie and her daughter (who she has caused similar harm) throughout the film. Maybe she realized that she has made some mistakes in the past and she is ready to fess up. Maybe she feels guilt. I think a lot of the people involved feel guilt, including Steve J.
I really liked the honesty that went into it. Steve J. is like a Mr. Rogers, who is so sweet and kind, he seems a little timid at times, but very truthful. He asks Stevie, "do you feel that I abandoned you, when I moved away and stopped visiting you?" He was ready for the answer. I think that he's trying to make up for leaving him, because maybe he thinks that if he didn't leave him, Stevie wouldn't have turned out the way that he did.
For children that have had such a harsh childhood, is there anything you can really do for them in adulthood that will bring back the trust that they have lost? I really don't know. Stevie seems to avoid showing emotion, he never cried once that I could see. At the same time, he seems to care about those close to him, including his girlfriend, who is disabled, but is clearly making better choices than him.
I really loved Judy (the director's wife) in the film. Knowing her job description and what Stevie allegedly did, she seems to really care about him, and wants to help him. Whether or not Stevie is affected by any of the people who seem to care about him, I couldn't tell. He continually made bad choices, and his temper seemed to go up and down like a rollercoaster. One thing I will give him credit for, is the fact that he never laid a hand on his current fiance/girlfriend, because in his short-lived past marriage, he used to beat his wife. You realize that there are some mistakes that he has learned from.
Towards the end, Stevie leaves the house and climbs a tree, and it once again reminds me that he is a child. What happens when a child does something so bad that it's hard to forgive? Can you separate the behavior from the child? I think that's something that I struggled with, while I was viewing the film.
Like all good things, this had to come to an end. Not to spoil things, but, it didn't end happily. No matter what happens, it's good to know that people really do care about him, even though it he didn't find this out for many, many years.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing true story shows results of a troubled childhood, October 10, 2003
This review is from: Stevie (DVD)
When I heard about this 2002 documentary by Steve James, the director who brought us "Hoop Dreams", I just had to see it. "Stevie" is a disturbing look at a tortured life of a blue-eyed blond child who had a rotten childhood and grew up to become an abuser himself. When the director was in college, he was a "big brother" to the little boy but later moved away. After ten years, he returned to meet up with Stevie, now an in his twenties. Stevie had been in every foster home in Southern Illinois and got in trouble in all of them. When we meet him, he is living with his step-grandmother, hates his mother, has had a short abusive marriage, has never held a steady job, and has a mentally retarded girlfriend.
The film follows this troubled young man for 4-1/2 years and the director cannot help but take a good hard look at his own role in the film he is making. Right in front of us we see the result of years of neglect and abuse of the boy, now a man. He's angry, abuses alcohol and is sometimes violent. The setting is rural Illinois, a place of trailer camps, fundamentalist churches, fishing creeks, white supremacist culture, pickup trucks and unemployment. With the exception of Stevie's half-sister, who has a happy marriage and eventually has a baby, most of the people are sad and angry. It is not a pretty place to live.
The film is 145 minutes long but it never lags. I was completely caught up in Stevie's life, my feelings ranging from pity to anger as it gradually became quite clear that Stevie's character was set for life and that there would be little, if any change. When he is charged with a crime, we see him fighting the justice system. Eventually, he loses. This is not surprising.
If this were fiction, there would be some sort of contrived ending. But this is a documentary and all it does is tell the truth. I loved this fine film. It's full of honesty and courage. And I applaud the filmmaker for making it. I highly recommended it. But be prepared to plunge into Stevie's troubled world.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Steve and Stevie..., April 4, 2005
This review is from: Stevie (DVD)
What I found most interesting about this documentary is that the filmmaker Steve James has a hard time separating himself from the subject Stevie. Whereas a lot of people walk away from this film feeling like Steve used Stevie's situation as an opportunity, I felt that the film was more of a reflection of how he feels that he's failed his "little brother". It would be easier for James to edit himself out of the film, to focus solely on Stevie and to take advantage of his situation, but instead he references himself shouldering some of the blame for the situation. I believe it was the filmmaker's intention to show himself at his most distasteful, it's part of the honestly of the film.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, June 16, 2004
This review is from: Stevie (DVD)
This is a powerful and moving documentary about a college student who served as a Big Brother to a troubled youth, then returned years later to make a film and really get to know him. During the filming, Stevie (the troubled youth and focus of the film) is charged with a serious crime and the film takes us through the effects of this, on Stevie, his family and friends, and on the director. By introducing viewers to the characters in Stevie's life, the movie presents an amazing portrait of growing up poor and the constraints of average life in low-income rural America. It also demonstrates the detrimental impact that can be had on young lives when individuals within a community fail to love and commit to children. It makes viewers question the influence of heridity, upbringing, and individual choice in the formation of one's life journey. Most importantly, it shows the complete character of a person that outsiders might label a monster, and forces viewers to hesitate before making judgments. At two hours 25 minutes, the movie runs long at times and could have used a little more editing. Overall, it's a powerful and important film, well worth viewing.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Becoming Barabbas, February 9, 2005
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This review is from: Stevie (DVD)
Steve James, the director of this exceptional documentary, has had a colorful career. He has directed a few feature films, but most often he returns to the cinematic form that he succeeded at best--the documentary. His biggest hit, in 1994, was HOOP DREAMS. STEVIE won a lot of accolades at Sundance in 2002, when it was released. James started filming it in 1995, and had to come back to it several times, while he worked on "money" projects to feed his family.

In 1985, as a college student, James was a Big Brother, and he was paired up with Stephen Dale Fielding, a very troubled 11-year old. Stevie was very disruptive and difficult to work with. Soon after, James graduated, and moved to Chicago, where he began his career as filmmaker and documentarian. In 1995, flush with the success of HOOP DREAMS, James returned to Pomona, Illinois, and looked up Stevie. He was greeted warily by a 21-year old shirtless youth, with thinning haystack hair, jail tattoos, oversized glasses, a Harley ballcap, and a cruel smirk. STEVIE was conceived as a film that would illustrate how society had failed this young man, but this raw reunion left James quite shaken. It took him two years to return with the energy and funding to continue filming.

By 1997, Stephen had taken the storyline off in a different direction, to a much darker place. He was in jail, accused of molesting an 8-year old girl that he had been babysitting. He had written a "confession" to the police. Later, after he got out on bail, while waiting for his trial, he pleaded innocent to all charges. The court, and his lawyer, offered him a "deal". If he were to plead guilty, and he would accept counseling, he could get off on probation, with just the time served. He turned down the deal.

Watching his eyes as he turned down the legal deal, one could sense the thickness of his arrogance, and the density of his ignorance. Like a child, he did not want to admit his guilt. He would deal with it by just denying it. And, of course, if he were ever convicted of the crime--he planned to commit suicide," taking a few cops with me." This was further proof of his naivete and immaturity. Stevie's crime catapulted this film into a downward spiral, dead-stick, right into the ground. It could go nowhere else.

Stephen's family and friends were the stuff of Faulkner fiction, the characters written about by Horton Foote, and other dramatic authors. Incest, abuse, rapes, beatings, foster homes, juvenile detention, reform schools, and then jail--these were the ingredients of Stephen's life. Did society let him down, and did the system let him slip through the cracks? Probably. Was he abused by his own mother, and by scores of foster parents--yes.

Was he then blameless as he turned into a shiftless drunken bully and thief? No, would be my view. As a kid, "Troublemaker" became his identity--his child's way of receiving attention and respect of the wrong kind from the wrong people. But it was his choice to become incorrigible, and to selfishly pursue his own needs regardless--even to the point of an incidence of child molestation.

As an audience, we were like passengers on a runaway train, white-knuckling our grasp on the seat in front of us, silently screaming as it thundered inexorably toward the end of the line, and an almost certain crash. It finally did. We were safe. We survived, but I doubt that Stevie did. It has been two years since he was placed in the penitentiary. He has probably been devoured by his own demons, or by the denizens of darkness that he was forced to lie down with.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best documentaries out there, August 24, 2006
By 
Franklin P. Boyd (Lawrenceburg, IN USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stevie (DVD)
This is a movie that most people can connect with. We all have known a stevie in our lives. You know the angry loaner, hates the world and everyone in it. He desperately craves attention and respect after years of abuse and torment. Even with the bitterness you want to help stevie. But stevie doesnt realize or understand that his tough guy redneck persona is self-destructive. He brags of past arrests and fights like they are badges of honor, friends and relatives shake their heads because they dont know how to help him. Drugs, mental hospitals, religion have all failed him in his eyes. The bottom line is this is a movie that will stay with you for a very long time, especially if you have known a stevie in your life.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Journey, September 23, 2003
By 
Robert A. Schuette (Brooklyn, New York United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Stevie (DVD)
This past weekend, I "discovered" Stevie, a documentary that was in theaters earlier this year. Crafted by Steve James -- the documentary filmmaker behind "Hoop Dreams" -- it relates what happens when he returns to southern Illinois to find Stevie Fielding, a troubled 11 year old to whom he had been a Big Brother while in college but had since lost touch with upon his relocation to Chicago.
While overly long (coming in at just under 2 1/2 hours) and sometimes biting off more than it can chew -- an examination of the virulent, and still prevalent, racism in this country's rural white enclaves is worthy of a film in itself -- it is, for the most part, an enthralling but ultimately heartbreaking account of a lost soul who -- despite the efforts of some very well-meaning people -- has been allowed to slip through the cracks. It's a film that that never tries to sweep away the sometimes devastating consequences of Stevie's behavior but, rather, seeks to understand how that anti-social behavior was created in the first place.
So, if you're in the mood for something different, give Stevie a try. But be prepared for what you're getting into. I -- for one -- am not ashamed to say that I wept openly at times both for the needless "loss" of a little boy and at the astounding compassion that -- as this documentary shows -- some human beings are capable of.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars RIVETING, December 8, 2003
This review is from: Stevie (DVD)
wow.....i am a true docuholic and this one is the best...next to "capturing the freidmans". this one sticks with you for a while. stevie's girlfriend is the most spritiualy right on girl i have ever seen. to get a full grasp on this flick...you must watch the audio commentary (where we are promised a lollipop)to fully understand the compassion that the crew and mr. james put into this piece of work.
jack e. jett
the jack e. jett show
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Of Stevie and Steven, August 11, 2007
This review is from: Stevie (DVD)
Once in a while you come across a movie which is very difficult to watch. Not because it is a bad movie but due to the nature of the topic it deals with. A similar movie which comes to mind is The Woodsman (Kevin Bacon gives an outstanding performance as a man released from prison after serving time for child molestation. And the direction by Nicole Kassell is absolutely brilliant).

Any movie which deals with child abuse is somehow very difficult for me to watch. It is a mixture of disgust and curiousness that engulfs me when I watch this. While the acts of the protagonist makes me squirm, there is that part of me that is curious to know what made them that way. It also makes me wonder is there any way to change them.

Stevie is a documentary made by Steve James (of Hoop Dreams fame). This is the story of a boy (Stevie) the director came to know through the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program. The director returns to Southern Illinois after nearly 10 years to see how his 'little brother' is doing. And the picture he sees isn't pretty.

Probably because I have been part of a mentoring program for nearly 2 years, it makes this movie a little extra special to me.

Stevie's childhood is nothing short of a nightmare. An absuive and violent mom who abandons him (We later find out that she was using him as an outlet for her anger towards his father who left her), raped in a foster home, never really cared for except by one set of foster parents.

Now in his mid twenties, Stevie has been arrested numerous times for variety of crimes. During the course of the movie, he is also charged with molesting his 8-year old cousin. The movie's latter half follows this trial.

While the director doesn't use the troubled childhood as an excuse for the crimes Stevie has committed, he tries to show us that Stevie really never had a fair chance at becoming a real person.

There are a variety of characters who appear in this landscape of trailer parks and rural towns. There is Bernice - Stevie's mom who finally returns home, Brenda (Stevie's sister) and her husband who care for Stevie despite his flaws and Stevie's girlfriend Tonya who loves Stevie all the same.

Quite a few critics of the movie have criticized the director for being too involved in the movie. But according to me, they are overlooking the fact that it is Steven's story to some extent too. He is a part of Stevie's life and a story of that is not quite complete without him in it.

The movie ends with Stevie being sent to prison for 10 years for the molestation charges.

A moving depiction of the intricacies of human nature, it leaves us with a whole bunch of questions.

What if Stevie's mom was better to him ?

What if Steven had been his mentor longer ?

What if Stevie's favorite foster family had been able to keep him longer ?

Well....I guess we will never know.

It left me wondering how will I react if I too saw the same bleak picture of my mentee 10 years from now.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars stevie, November 6, 2007
By 
Jen (Boston MA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Stevie (DVD)
I just saw the movie and It really showed the harsh truth of a lost child. I now just really wonder what has become of him with so many years have passed. Does anyone have clue?
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Stevie
Stevie by Steve James (DVD - 2003)
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