The Shoni Schimmel Flick, “Off The Rez”: Interesting, But Disappointing

I’ll say this for TLC. The network sure does know how to jam a lot of commercials in its programming. Tuned in on Saturday night for my first look at the “heralded” documentary about Louisville Women’s b-ball hoop star Shoni Schimmel. And, actually was able to see the film, though it took work and patience, wedged as it was intermittently among a whole lot of commercials.

Frankly, I found the film disappointing.

There was little if any insight into the personality of Schimmel herself, her thoughts about all the adulation, how she related to her teammates and school peers or siblings, any social life away from the game or how or why she chose to play for Jeff Walz at U of L.

The film frankly focused more on her mom, who coached her after the family moved as best they could from off the reservation to Portland, where Shoni could showcase her skills. Not that the focus on mama wasn’t of interest, or that the importance of Schimmel to the Native Americans in the northwest wasn’t fascinating. (Note: Throughout the film they refer to themselves as “Indians.” Who is being politically incorrect now?)

I was simply hoping for more about and from Schimmel herself.

The thematic undercurrent of the film is whether she will play college ball close to home and family and heritage, or move far away to avoid the temptation to return to the “rez” as her uncle did, and so many others have?

Yet the film never explains her decision making process, or how much her family’s feelings mattered in the final decision?

There was no insight into how Jeff Walz — or any other coach recruiting her — approached the star during the recruiting process.

Suffice it to say, that “Off The Rez” is no challenger for “Hoop Dreams.” Which is not only the best recruiting reality ever filmed, but the best basketball film ever.

– Seedy K


  1. Paul
    Posted May 16, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    The film created a whole lot more fans for the University of Louisville women’s basketball program. And, as you should know…Walz couldn’t comment about a recruit until the LOI is in the coach’s office. Shoni hadn’t signed with Louisville during the majority of the filmng.

  2. c d kaplan
    Posted May 16, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Good points. The movie, flaws and all, certainly can’t hurt U of L’s stature. And, you are correct, Walz couldn’t comment . . .. until after Shoni signed her LOI or enrolled. Both of which occurred way before the film was completed.

  3. Birdie King
    Posted May 17, 2011 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    Although the film was made well before she committed they could have used the last five minutes to show how/why she arrived at her decision to select the Cards and who else she seriously considered. Then they pick a Cards game against a minor opponent (the arena was half empty) to she her in action. They could have easily used footage of the Tennessee game with a packed how. While I enjoyed the documentary the ending leaved a lot to be desired.

  4. Michelle
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    I agree! What about college visits? Did she never go on any? Did she never talk to a coach? Explain her process??? I kept waiting for that and all we got was the walk with her dad and the talk with both folks were she says nothing but I’m confused. Not even a small bit by her on why she went to Lville. This would have been better packaged as the cost of raising a d1 athlete in a struggling economy or as part of a bigger look at native people leaving the Rez. I don’t feel like I know Shoni at all.

  5. Bill Broker
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    I am not a Native American, but I am a huge fan of Shoni, and I attended many of the games shown in the film. Thank you for having the courage to risk being considered “unpatriotic” to the Ville by pointing out that, from the standpoint of telling Shoni’s story, the film left a lot to be desired. Even the premise of the film – that Shoni had to leave the Rez in order to get the “exposure” she needed to get a college scholarship – was wrong. By the end of Shoni’s sophmore year, in which the 5A (2nd largest) state tournament was held in Portland and Shoni’s Hermiston team made it to the finals, every college coach knew who she was. And, as others have already pointed out, the film failed to offer insight into her decision-making process. Notwithstanding its fundamental deficiencies, the film is undeniably inspirational to many Native Americans, as evidenced by the thousands of comments Shoni is getting on her Facebook wall. So, I’m willing to overlook the problems with the film in exchange for three NCAA championships and Shoni’s displacing Sue Bird on the US National Team next year in time for the 2012 Olympics.

  6. lonnie
    Posted May 26, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    A big WOW! does it really matter who she picked or who picked her what matter is the obsticles she accomplished to get there she proved to many and showed many that it could be done as a native american on the rez to me she is a leader! so go Shoni keep proving them wrong “Native Style!”

  7. Bob
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    This is my opinion… the movie Off the Rez was not about choosing a school to play basketball but much more… By the way… I work on a reservation and am not native American…
    Off the Rez is about American Indians realizing their full potetntial and having the courage and strength to leave the reservation… It is also about assimilating into American society.
    There were so many issues and points to the movie… Shoni’s father being white… Shoni’s father and cousin not rising up to their potetntial… Shoni’s mother getting preganant the first and then again while coaching… the aggressive nature of Shoni’s mother toward whites tho’ she herself was the one who quit her dream… Shoni’s grandma wanting her to stay on the Rez… And so many other issues not mentioned…
    I find the movie uplifting and interesting… however, so much is left unknown about Shoni’s future… The questions remain… will Shoni return to te Rez after her basketball stint at Louisville? Will Shoni use her education after college? Will Shoni marry a native American or possibly a guy from another ethnic group? What will the future be for Shoni?
    To me… the bigger picture is whether Shoni (and native Americans) will one day assimilate into American culture… Otherwise… why go off the rez just to prove a point that you can make it?
    I liked the movie very much…

  8. Zandie Bighorn
    Posted February 16, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Hey Shoni your an awesome ball player! and i want to be like you when i grow up. i live in brockton montana, its a small little town.

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