Believe in Me (2006)

Categories: Movie Reviews
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Comments: 11 Comments
Published on: 2008.09.01

The film “Believe in Me” is an adaptation of the novel Brief Garland, by Oklahoma author Harold Keith, and tells a fictionalized version of the true-to-life story of Jim Keith (Harold’s nephew).

Jim Keith was a basketball coach who came to Sayre, Okla., intending to coach boys’ basketball, but was forced to head up the girls’ team instead. Eventually, Keith built a State Championship program, winning Class 2A State Championships in 1970 and ’71.

In the movie, Jeffrey Donovan plays fictional coach Clay Driscoll, based on Jim Keith. Driscoll comes to Middleton and takes over the girls’ team, despite his desire to coach boys. With a few adventures along the way, he eventually gets the parents, students, and town to rally around his girls’ team. In the movie, Middleton wins state in the 1965-66 season.

The film did a good job of portraying a small town in rural Oklahoma — the opening shots that revealed Middleton reminded me of a hundred small towns that I’ve driven through, and the scenery (though filmed in New Mexico) looked quite a bit like rural Oklahoma.

It also — I thought — captured the essence of high school girls’ sports in an age when they weren’t deemed that important. It was well-acted, well-directed, and decently written.

However, it was not well-researched, and that’s just one of the down-sides to this otherwise excellent low-budget movie.

Until the 1980s, girls in Oklahoma played half-court basketball, a fact that went unnoticed by this film’s makers. Even Jim Keith, who assisted in the making of the film, didn’t appear too disappointed by the oversight, which was glaringly obvious to any fan of the sport. When we were expecting them to stop at half court and pass the ball across, the girls just kept on running.

Another historical inaccuracy that any basketball fan would notice is the presence of three-point lines on the gym floors in the film (which supposedly took place in 1964 and 1965). In real life, the three-point line wasn’t used regularly until the 1960s, and that was in the American Basketball Association (pros). The NBA didn’t adopt the three-point shot until 1979. International basketball made the long shot official in 1984. NCAA basketball first saw three-pointers in 1980, but it wasn’t standardized until 1986. In high school, the new rule took effect at different times in different places, but was not used in Oklahoma in the 1960s.

It should have been a simple matter to repaint the gym floors for the movie, but the filmmakers decided not to. This grated on me every time the floors were in sight on screen.

There were a couple of other things that would only be bothersome to an Oklahoman… The Ford Center is visible in a skyline shot of Oklahoma City (wasn’t built until the 2000s). Weatherford (a town name) is misspelled on a marquee. A farmer uses a hay machine that wasn’t invented until the 1970s, and the scoreboard in the gym is made by a company that didn’t exist in the 1960s.

The film also looked cheaply done, as if it were made to be a TV movie. I understand it was a low-budget flick, but it didn’t have to look that way.

As a final conclusion, though, this movie is worth watching. Most of us can learn to set aside the few nit-picking complaints and enjoy a decent, wholesome sports movie. It wasn’t too clichéd, and most of the time, it felt like a real story.

(And when was the last time you saw a girls’ sports movie? A League of Their Own?)

Special Note: As a sports editor for a small-town Oklahoma newspaper, I’ve taken special care over the last few years to give girls’ sports the same level of coverage as boys’. In the past few years, our girls’ teams have actually done better than the boys, and it’s kind of exciting to see girls scrapping it out.

IMDb: Believe in Me
Wikipedia: Believe in Me
Rating: PG
(mild thematic elements and language)
Length: 91 min (1:31)
Director: Robert Collector
Genre: Drama / Sports
My Rating: 7 of 10
Family Friendly: Yes.
Jeffrey Donovan, Samantha Mathis, Bruce Dern, Bob Gunton, Heather Matarazzo, Marta McGonagle, Alicia Lagano

  1. Anonymous says:

    Loved the movie but was confused as to why it was full court instead of the half court I remembered from my high school days in the 80s. Got online to research and found this article…. NIce to know I'm not crazy lol

  2. Wil says:

    Thanks for the comment. Glad I could be of help. :-)

  3. cialis says:

    Interesting article, added his blog to Favorites

  4. Elois Gause says:

    Thank you for this movie. It was inspirational in more ways than I imagined. Women today are dealing with some of the same prejudices encountered in 1965. This movie showed me not only how far we’ve come as females but also how much harder we have to continue to grow as individuals in accepting those that are different, not only in gender but in other areas of our lives. Thank you Jim Keith for demonstrating courage and bravery in a time when it was not popular to promote women and showing what women can do when you believe in them and their abilities to overcome challenges!

  5. Wil C. Fry says:


    Thank you for the comment.

  6. Davis Tee says:

    Hello Webmaster, I noticed that is ranking pretty low on Google and has a low Google PageRank. …

    [spam links and spam “information” removed by blog owner Wil C. Fry]

  7. Wil C. Fry says:


    If the page is ranked so low, how do you spammers keep finding it? Apparently, my blog is quite visible in search engines. The main problem isn’t page ranks, it’s douches like you.

  8. Mary says:

    Despite the lack of accuracy regarding the rules in the days back then, half-court for example, I found this movie remarkably entertaining. Who cares that there were some factual errors. If they had done the half-court play, kids of this age might have turned away from the movie – perhaps it was done intentionally to keep kids watching so they could see what the movie was really trying to show – gender inequality in sports and the story of a good man himself, learning about sports inequality. I was born too early for women’s volleyball to be worth more than worms in the dirt. We had a tennis teacher for a coach. I knew more about volleyball then she did so I can understand what those girls felt. I think they did a remarkable job of acting and obviously the writers’ did a good job as I could relate strongly to what I was watching. I was very surprised by Jeffrey Donovan. He was the reason I decided to try the movie. I’ve liked him since I saw him in the TV show, The Pretender. I didn’t think he could act believably in this type of movie and was nicely surprised. I am not into basketball at all but this movie wasn’t really about basketball, it was about the inequality of women in sports. “Believe in Me” showed quite clearly where women belonged in the world in the 60’s. I thought it bad for us women in the 70’s volleyball scene but watching one girls’ team wearing long dresses playing basketball pretty much said it all about sports inequality back then as well as what girls were supposed to be like. It also showed quite clearly how controlling one man can be in a town and how brave a town can be joining together for a strong reason and winning. All in all, a good movie to show kids how good they have it now and how much better it can be. And you are right, how often does one see a movie about womens’ sports.

  9. Wil C. Fry says:

    Thanks for the comment, Mary. I’m glad you enjoyed the movie. :-)

  10. Devonna Thompson says:

    I really enjoyed watching this movie. I also was disappointed that they did not research girls basketball better. I played in Oklahoma from 1978-1985. I remember what a hard time the girls had when they switched to full court. It’s a very different strategy when making plays. I think the story was more important than this historical fact and would definately recommend to friends.

  11. Wil C. Fry says:

    Devonna, thank you for commenting and sharing your experience.

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