Whatever happened to: Frederick Marx

Whatever happened to: Frederick Marx

Today, we update you on people and places from the recent past and decades ago. Here, filmmaker Frederick Marx:


Marx, a University High School and University of Illinois graduate, made his name as one of three filmmakers (along with Steve James and Peter Gilbert) to create a documentary that followed the success and travails of two promising Chicago prep basketball players, William Gates and Arthur Agee. "Hoop Dreams" took five years of filming and 250 hours of footage, and the filmmakers cut it down to about three hours. It was originally meant to be 30 minutes on PBS, but went on to be in theaters and is one of the highest-grossing documentaries ever.


The 2014 Sundance Film Festival recently honored Marx, James and Gilbert for the 20th anniversary of the prize-winning documentary. "The Hoops reunion screening yesterday went great," Marx said last week. The 1978 UI graduate, the son of a professor and a deeply intellectual mother with degrees in political science and filmmaking, now lives in California but travels extensively to Asia; Marx speaks German and some Mandarin-Chinese. His career is flourishing, but in a slightly different way from the film that made him famous. Marx describes himself as a "change agent," making films about Asia, spirituality and about the process of becoming an adult. His California-based Warrior Films won praise for Marx's recent documentary "Journey from Zanskar," about Tibetan monks preserving a way of life. New York Magazine praised it for "effective suspense and compassion." Marx is 58. "My work of late is about human transformation. How can everyday human beings, facing every kind of social and/or economic barrier to their flourishing, somehow still navigate their way to a life filled with meaning and fulfillment?" he asks. Of his personal life, he says "No kids. I put all my fathering energy into my work with youth and families, and into mentorship."

What they said ...

The late Roger Ebert called "Hoop Dreams" the best film of 1994, writing "A film like 'Hoop Dreams' is what the movies are for. It takes us, shakes us, and makes us think in new ways about the world around us. It gives us the impression of having touched life itself. 'Hoop Dreams' contains more actual information about life as it is lived in poor black city neighborhoods than any other film I have ever seen."

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