________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 21. . . .June 13, 2008


Heads Up!

Adamm Liley (Writer & Director). Annette Clarke (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2006.
58 min., 10 sec., VHS & DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 153C 9106 363.

Grades 6 and up / Ages 11 and up.

Review by Brianne Grant.

***½ /4



Only one in a thousand will play an NHL game. But the dream lives in every 11-year-old hockey start. Heads Up follows seven dreamers six boys and one girl through a pivotal season: the year they start body checking. The players are bigger, the coaches demand more and you have to take a hit to make a play. (From DVD jacket)

"If we play the same way against Halifax there'll be nothing but red dye all over the sweaters." (quote from a Peewee hockey coach in the film.)


If there is one thing that Heads Up! shows, it's that hockey is not a game about winning and losing. Writer/director Adamm Liley follows seven hockey players and traces their dreams, fears and hopes for the future. All of the players are moving from Atom to Peewee, a move which means that they are also entering the world of body checking. The outlook of the players ranges from Nick, who dreams of becoming a professional hockey player and a doctor, to Mitchell, who practices his autograph for the day he becomes a famous hockey player. Liley follows the players from tryouts in September to the Nova Scotia Provincial Championships in April. Because Heads Up! is a documentary, it may be slow for some child viewers; however, it includes very useful information and footage, especially for hockey players who are making the transition from Atom to Peewee.

     Heads Up! does not use a narrator, and so the voices of the 10 and 11-year-old hockey players, their parents and coaches set the tone for the program. The film makes use of a variety of contexts from which to conduct the interviews. The players have their own private time with a camera, and in these more personal segments, they express their feelings about tryouts, a game or hockey in general. Filming is also done in locker rooms with peer-to-peer interviews recorded after games. Some players also talk about hockey with their parents or are filmed playing with their friends and siblings. Most of these segments are filled with scuffles and typical family dynamics, an approach which makes the film feel like a true representation of the actual feelings and experiences of the participants. The different contexts for interviews created a well rounded picture of what body checking in hockey means to the children playing hockey and to hockey in general.

      Liley represents many sides to the idea of body checking in the minor hockey leagues. He includes the voices of hockey coaches that describe this transition in play to a "small manhood" for the players as they must overcome fears and play with a new physical intensity. The fervor of a coach, who glorifies "red dye all over the sweaters," is also included unabashedly in the movie. The fears and worries of the parents and players involved provide a well-rounded understanding of what the families feel about 10 and 11-year-olds starting to body check. The young players have articulate and complicated views about body checking, and although some have fears, they all look forward to mastering this component of hockey. The 11-year-old player, Nick, thinks hitting will be fun and comments that kids in schools fight all of the time because it is a normal part of childhood. To illustrate the dialogue of the participants, Liley incorporates footage of bad hits in the minors, injuries and even the tears. This addition complements the dialogue and further shows how the addition of body checking changes the game for the players.

      The extensive footage of Peewee hockey games and body checking would be an excellent resource for young players who are nervous or curious about this transition in playing hockey. It would be useful to parents who may have questions or worries about their child starting body checking in hockey. Liley also follows a female player in the league, and so for young girls interested in hockey, the video shows that they can have a strong role on the ice. Overall, the film does an excellent job of balancing the opinions and ideas about body checking at the Peewee level. By presenting the voice of the young players, Liley captures a complicated mixture of excitement and fear of body checking. Heads Up! is an excellent film that would be a great resource for young hockey players and their families.

Highly Recommended.

Brianne Grant is a student in the Master of Arts in Children's Literature at the University of British Columbia.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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