» » The Basket (1999)

Short summary

A picturesque Pacific Northwest community raising its wheat and children in the midst of a nation reeling from World War I sets the stage for The Basket. In a time of pain and prejudice woven against a background of beauty, The Basket ultimately points to triumph and hope in a changing America.

Spokane basketball player #2 is Scott McQuilken, actual Athletic Director at Whitworth College. McQuilken later made his stage debut as Egeus in the school's fall 2003 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Director of Photography Dan Heigh mentions that the "hero angle" of shots of Helmut slowly rise throughout the film, starting with the camera looking down at Helmut in the early scenes and ending with the camera looking up at Helmut in the last scenes. [00:35:43]

At the Waterville "train station", director Rich Cowan and director of photography Dan Heigh mention (DVD commentary) that the locomotive didn't work, so the train couldn't move. Production designer, Vincent DeFelice, mentions in the featurette "Behind the Basket: Designing" that some of the horses that were to pull the Emerys' wagon as they meet the train were sent to a different location, so to stay on schedule the scene was shot with staff out of camera range pulling the wagon by hand.

The music for the opera Der Korb used in the film was composed by co-writer/composer Don Caron of Spokan who mentions in the featurette "Behind the Basket: Composing" that as the screenplay was developed, a story for the opera was also developed. He started composing some of the music during the three year process of writing the script, but the bulk of the music was composed in the six weeks after the movie was posted. The record booklet shown in the film at 16:06 shows the composer as Gottlieb Mueller, possibly taken from Christian Gottlieb Müller, the first music composition teacher of Richard Wagner.

Director Rich Cowan and director of photography Dan Heigh mention (DVD commentary) that shooting took 24 days (at around 09 mins) from late September to early October (at around 03 mins). Since the film debuted 6/5/1999 (at the Seattle International Film Festival) and has a 1999 copyright, it would have been shot in 1998.

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: นℕĨĈტℝ₦
    Although containing some troubling lapses in plot and story integrity, The Basket engaged me and drew me into the lives it portrayed in a small-town, set in a confusing era of American history. The anti-war sentiments of a hustler-turned-schoolteacher seemed a bit too post-modern and the "inclusive" message a bit overdone, but the cast turned in marvelous performances in this quietly dignified story that celebrates the value of community--a counterpoint to our contemporary society that tends to embrace and celebrate the individual at the expense of the good of the whole. Well worth the watching!
  • comment
    • Author: Andronrad
    I have read many reviews and they are all very positive. I would like to stress the point that it is not just a very sweet movie that is suitable for the whole family. I enjoyed it for the character development, authenticity, historical accuracy and illustration of both sides to a very difficult situation facing these people. The movie did not try to portray anyone as totally evil or good, right or wrong. That period of American history has always seemed a bit fuzzy to me and the film created an incredibly sharp view of America that would be of great interest to anyone. Beautifully photographed, interesting characters, humor, tragedy, mystery, nostalgia and history without cloying sweetness or the typical Hollywood "embellishments!" The "whole" family will enjoy this movie not because of what's "not" in it, but because of what "is" in it! The cast is a superb blend of "known" with "unknown" actors to flesh out multiple stories. This is what makes it a movie for the whole family. Every family member will have a character or story they can relate to while they watch them all come together at the end of the film.
  • comment
    • Author: Adrietius
    The Basket is one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. It was not only beautifully filmed, but the story was as deep as you looked. It didn't need fancy special effects or thrills - just solid film making at it's best.

    I actually stumbled on this film. My wife and I heard about this movie via word of mouth that it was a must see. Two weeks later by some stroke of luck it was playing at our local theater. When the movie ended I couldn't help to think what happened with the distribution of this movie. It deserves much more screen time and exposure than it has received. If I hadn't heard about this movie from a friend, I may never have seen it. It was Fantastic!

    This sleeper deserves to be seen, I enjoyed it as much as "Life is Beautiful" that got so much aclaim.

    My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed this film and strongly recommend it.
  • comment
    • Author: MilsoN
    The Basket is well worth your time. The story is well told, the scenery is beautiful, the music is haunting, and the characters believable. We went to see it because it was filmed nearby and we wanted to see if we could recognize the landscape and buildings. We went back a second time because we wanted to show a visitor from Russia a well made American movie (without fear of embarrassment over language or content). Irena may not have understood all the dialog, but she sure understood the story and the message. The Basket far surpasses our parochial interest.
  • comment
    • Author: Whitesmasher
    I had the pleasure of seeing 'THE BASKET' over the Christmas holiday and thought it was fantastic. It wasn't a film that I had really heard much about although I gather it is beginning to make waves. I saw a mention of it in a newspaper saying that it starred KAREN ALLEN and had got good reviews, so I thought 'she's a cool actress - sounds good - I'll check it out'. I was really blown away!

    The film is visually stunning with fantastic scenery and incredible framing. The acting by ALLEN (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Starman, Perfect Storm) and PETER COYOTE (E.T., Erin Brockovich) was superb, especially when ALLEN looks at her dying son Ben, then lifts her eyes to the heavens as if begging God for him to recover. I found this part of the film to be particularly poignant and moving. We were all crying when ALLEN breaks down and runs into the field. Wonderful acting - not O.T.T. - just right.

    The young German children were also fab. I really felt for them all. The rousing music was nicely integrated as were the fully developed subplots regarding the harvester and Mr Emery's initial discrimination against the children. I would rate this film as one of the best all year. A very, very big well done for cast and crew and in particular first time director RICH COWEN! I think he has a great career ahead of him and I can't wait to see more of his work if it is of this calibre.

    If you have not done so, seek out this film and go and see it. A 10 out of 10 all round winner! Apparently a 'loaded' DVD is in the works.
  • comment
    • Author: Puchock
    If the combination of war, history, opera and basketball sounds to you like an unlikely topic for a movie, you'd probably be in the majority. But I can safely say this movie that will surely evoke a response. THE BASKET is a haunting story of what we were like in a simpler time and how some things like prejudice just don't seem to change. It is a movie you can take your mother and grandmother to without fear, they'll love you for taking them on a journey back to their youth. The attention paid to detail is amazing.

    The music is superb, the lady who sings the title song has a marvelous voice and the aria will stay in your minds ear. I'm looking forward to getting the audio track. A thoroughly enjoyable experience, congratulations to those involved in this independent project. More!

  • comment
    • Author: VariesWent
    This was a video store closeout, and a remarkable find. The best part first. Having had relatives and in-laws who lived there in the time, this looks and feels real. The horse drawn harvester, to start with. The blue sky and tufts of clouds, the golden hills and pines - not fake at all - it's the northern Palouse in early fall. The attitudes of the people are just what I'd expect. Suspicious of anything new or foreign - Spokane was the IWW headquarters just prior to this period, and dangerous radicals such as Joe Hill(strom) wandered all through the basin making trouble for the established citizenry. WWI had a huge effect on Northwest labor history, and the tension between loyalty and freethinking was strong. Yet there was also the great thirst for culture, and a pre-mass media naivete, in these places - a yearning for art perhaps inspired by living in the midst of great beauty. Finally, all those stark white houses, churches and schoolhouse sitting forlornly out in the wide open. The movie gets ALL of this right.

    Sadly, there isn't much of a story to complement the pictures. The problem with small town life is that it was boring, and it's hard to find a believable story with a lot of drama that fits. Focused on the relationships only, this might have been something like A River Runs Through It or Napoleon Dynamite (both of which play against similar scenic backdrops). Focused on the sports story, perhaps Hoosiers. Focused on outsiders fitting in, perhaps Days of Heaven. But muddled all together, it comes out like a string of TV episodes, like Little House on the Prairie. Very melodramatic, with all the music swells and dramatic incidents that usually precede a commercial.
  • comment
    • Author: Levion
    For a nation founded on high ideals of freedom and equality, we have often failed to practice what we preach, certainly in our relations with American Indians and black slaves and their descendants. Less well known are the feelings of distrust and even hatred we felt toward those who had a common ancestry to our bitter enemies in war, the Japanese of World War II and the Germanic people of World War I. Watching the screening of this film in my own Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church last week, I was reminded of how my maternal great-grandfather Jacob Eilmes, an immigrant from Austria, pretended to being Polish during WWI to escape the wrath of his Spokane neighbors. Set in a time and place of the U.S. and shot on location,ironically, not far from which a great many communities existed in real life, including in southern Lincoln County, Washington, where my own father's family lived after leaving Europe, "The Basket" weaves a story of a town disrupted by the simultaneous appearance of two orphans and an opera from Germany. Perhaps for dramatic effect, by the way, the story takes some literary license with historic facts. The flashbacks shown of American soldiers killing civilians in Germany could never have happened during the war because our ground troops never got out of France in that time. The orphans and opera have a huge impact on the whole town, accomplished primarily by the introduction of a game called basketball. Today in eastern Washington, especially the small farming communities like the one in this story, high school basketball is still the linchpin that brings townsfolk together, so this movie may be preaching to the choir to those of us who live in the same area depicted in this film. But even if you live in an area outside basketball-mad places like eastern Washington or the state of Indiana, you should enjoy this fine story, which won the 2001 Movie Guide Award for "best film for families." (These awards are also known as the Christian Oscars.) I stop far short of calling this the greatest movie ever made about intolerance rearing its ugly head in a small town, but it's still well worth the effort of buying the DVD or going to see it when it's next shown at your neighborhood library, church or other venue. Dale Roloff
  • comment
    • Author: Ckelond
    This is what moviemaking, or story telling of any kind, should reach for. On the surface, a simple story well told. But "The Basket" delivers more. From the well defined historical period depiction, the grand scenery, the beautiful score, and a classic story of human conflict and redemption, this was a fun and satisfying movie night out. Sign me up for more movies like this!
  • comment
    • Author: Legionstatic
    I enjoyed this film very much. Everything was authentic, the actors were great, and the story was moving and captivating. Despite a lot of sadness, the movie also portrayed happiness. There was a great level of depth in character that keeps you thinking on about them and wondering more about them. The main theme of the movie is also a thought-provoking subject: prejudice. Learning to work together, learning to "fly" with others is a good lesson to learn. The sets and scenery were beautiful (God's creation is beautiful!), and the music was quite captivating & appropriate, even though I don't particularly like opera. There were a few flaws in the movie, such as a few swear words, and perhaps a lack of a few things, but over all it was a very good movie. (Entertaining & interesting behind the scenes commentaries, too, on the DVD.)
  • comment
    • Author: Fani
    Uscoa from Denver has it precisely wrong. I reviewed the film for IMDb in 1999 when I worked a graduate student at Washington State University, not too far from the shooting location. I was honored by an e-mail reply from the director, Rich Cowan. My comments then still stand. "The Basket" is a glorious film, beautifully photographed, acted with purpose, and suffers only from minor historical gaffes which are entirely forgivable. This film is a superb example of the great things which can be done in independent cinema with regional and local talent. The Pacific Northwest can be very proud of this project. The film may still be available on VHS, although I had to search a bit to find my copy. It was worth every penny.
  • comment
    • Author: Livina
    Splendid feel-good film resonating with rich visuals of the rolling autumn wheat fields of eastern Washington State. Although the historicity of the film is a bit specious--premise: WWI German children are orphaned because their parents were mistakenly killed by U.S. soldiers in the European fighting; fact: No U.S. soldier had even set foot on German soil before the end of the war, hence there was no opportunity to kill German civilians...even by mistake--The Basket is still a beautiful story with solid values and persuasively rendered. On the plus side of the history presented in the scenario, the film does not overstate the rabid anti-German hysteria infecting much of American society during the WWI years.

    Jim Swoboda, The director of photography for the Second Unit, also performed as the bass soloist for the Opera sequences. There is one great sequence involving 1918 farm folk, who have never seen an opera, but are seen chatting about one introduced to their children by a new school teacher via Victorola 75 rpm records. In a rapidly shifting montage, the schoolchildren's parents gush over the story line as if it were a favorite TV soap today. It is a hoot!
  • comment
    • Author: Vushura
    This has to be one of the best movies I have seen in a long while. It is a film that pretty much has everything and defies being categorized. I missed this film during it's limited theatrical release but I'm so pleased I finally got to see it. The film is not only a treat visually, but it also has a terrific score and some out-of-this-world performances. While Karen Allen is undoubtedly the biggest name in the film, the other actors all do great jobs. Allen, in fact, has more of a support role to Peter Coyote's schoolteacher with a past and the two great German kids. The young actor who plays Helmut is terrific and Karen Allen and Peter Coyote deliver the goods as always. If word of mouth spreads I think this film will become a big hit on home video. It has already become one of the most successful daytime premiers in BSKYB's history and it surely deserves all the great praise it is getting. You would not guess from this terrific film that it is the directors debut. While some may say that the film could have gone even further with our emotions, I think it strikes the right balance without being too sentimental. A completely fab experience! Highly recommended!
  • comment
    • Author: Yllk
    This movie is the best family movie I saw all year. The characters are compelling, the scenery is surreal, and the story line is a one-of-a-kind. I look forward to more films by this writing and directing team.
  • comment
    • Author: Thundershaper
    This is a beautiful, beautiful film. Released only in select markets in 1999 by AMC, don't miss the chance to see this film on the big screen. It tells the story of two German war orphans and their battle for acceptance in the United States during World War I. The film creatively uses basketball, opera, and farming to set the story. This is a film you can take your children and their grandparents to. It's a multi-generational family film and shouldn't be missed.
  • comment
    • Author: Zulkigis
    Many folks have praised the historical accuracy of this film. I question the whole factual basis of the film, did 1. Americans kill civilians in Germany, and 2. Was there sufficient time and reason for German orphans to have been brought to America before the War's end?

    America didn't enter the War 'til 1917, and, from my reading, the Allies did not even penetrate Germany before Armistice in November 1918

    For me, this film grates on many levels. One of those is the repetitive Wagnerian musical score and fictional German opera. Could such a choice of an opera comport with a teacher's, never mind community, sensibilities of the time?

    Was the farmer's supposedly outmoded harvester so advanced in that day as to be beyond the skills of the American farmer nor his grown sons?

    And while facing an American flag, to which flag was the young German pledging allegiance?

    This film can be compared to the far more polished 'Snow Falling on Cedars'.
  • comment
    • Author: Umi
    Director Rich Cowan could be the next Frank Capra. This film is visually appealing, shot on location in Washington (I drove out to the lonely schoolhouse on the vast open fields near Kahlotus and it was a beautiful spot), and dialogue that fits the time period,and doesn't insult my intelligence. But yet I can sit comfortably with my 9 year old and 11 year old son and daughter and not fear of being offended.

    Films can be produced that have depth, substance, and values that reflect the mainstream and not the culture of Hollywood. Rich Cowan has done this without being syrupy or sappy , and on a tiny budget of 3 million dollars.

    The performances of the young German immigrants were of particular note.

    My only complaint is one long shot by the school you could see the high voltage lines in the distant background, and perhaps some editing in the first half of the film would help to move the film a bit more.

    But Rich Cowan should continue in the direction he is moving, families are crying out for films that the whole family can watch and be entertained with great photography, dialogue that is powerful yet contains verb age that is not been completely over used in the past 30 years, and characters that reflect the values of the mainstream .

    Keep up the good work Rich Cowan and North by Northwest Productions.
  • comment
    • Author: Banal
    I really like this movie a lot! A few things that I loved were how they used people I know personally in the movie. My singing lessons instructor was the opera's Soprano. My brother was the son that came home from war that had lost his leg. They tied his leg behind his back...crazy! ;o) I definitely bought this movie & I think it is a great feel good movie...And everything about it kept your attention at all times. At least mine & that is hard to do haha jk ;o) I wish my brother could get another gig like this one, because it was just an amazing experience for him. I think everyone should see this movie numerous times! Oh man the music is incredible! Oh & can I say KAREN ALLEN & PETER COYOTE?? I felt that was big time for my bro to work with these people!
  • comment
    • Author: unmasked
    I picked this film up at the video store after passing it by several times because it had received three awards for family viewing.

    I was disappointed on two fronts. Firstly, the overly loud music at every turn in the story was grating. Secondly, the historical accuracy of the persecuted German children was overdone.

    The scenery was nice, but the entire concept was poorly executed.
  • comment
    • Author: Beabandis
    Since I was unable to locate this movie near my home ,after seeing the poster while vacationing. I drove the 35+miles myself to a small town ,on a Saturday to the matinee. It was well worth the drive and made me glad to see that there still are some good family value movies being produced.I'm only sorry that the larger theaters dont find it worthy of the big screen ! I will continue to encourage others to see it and I plan to purchase a DVD copy for my family.(when released) Go see this movie with your family and friends....All your emotions will be touched..
  • comment
    • Author: ZEr0
    The Basket is excellent. We could take anyone and know they would enjoy it. The Basket deals with a part of our history that some might not be aware of. It also deals with bigotry in an area that could be soon forgotten.

    The Basket is a sincere, warm movie you will want to see!
  • comment
    • Author: Cildorais
    Beautiful music, perfect for the setting and mood of the story. I enjoyed this movie very much, the cinematography was exquisite. I recommend this unique work of art to everyone.Go see this movie, for you will truly enjoy it.
  • comment
    • Author: Fenius
    I haven't seen this film. My wife saw it on a recent trip to Spokane. These are her words: It is an intricately woven story that holds your interest throughout without the use of special effects, gratuitous sex, chase scenes or excessive violence. Its a must see for the whole family. Its a shame that its not available to a wider audience.
  • comment
    • Author: Ydely
    Now is your chance to see this film on the big screen. Starring Peter Coyote and Karen Allen, The Basket tells the story of a new schoolteacher in Waterville, Washington during World War I. He uses the unlikely subjects of opera and the new game of basketball to help two sibling German orphans who are facing discrimination by others in the town. The film is at once a drama, a sports film, and has some light-hearted moments. It is a wholesome and uplifting film.

    The production quality is superb and I highly recommend seeing the scenery on the big screen. The film also contains an original soundtrack, produced in part by individuals from Spokane.

    This is a film which all ages can enjoy. The basketball game's final scene is a moving display of sacrifice you won't soon forget.
  • comment
    • Author: Madis
    This is a "must see" for those who enjoy great cinematography. Very insightful regarding prejudice, patriotism, and love. Peter Coyote, Karen Allen, Joey and Ellen Travolta, among other less-known actors, work together to make this film a great one. If you get a chance, you should see this one. A few slow moments, but otherwise interesting.
  • Cast overview, first billed only:
    Peter Coyote Peter Coyote - Martin Conlon
    Karen Allen Karen Allen - Bessie Emery
    Robert Burke Robert Burke - Helmut Brink (as Robert Karl Burke)
    Amber Willenborg Amber Willenborg - Brigitta Brink
    Jock MacDonald Jock MacDonald - Nicholas Emery
    Eric Dane Eric Dane - Tom Emery
    Brian Skala Brian Skala - Nathan Emery
    Casey Cowan Casey Cowan - Samuel Emery
    Tony Lincoln Tony Lincoln - Reverend Simms
    Patrick Treadway Patrick Treadway - Frederick Treadway
    Ellen Travolta Ellen Travolta - Agnes
    Jack Bannon Jack Bannon - Marcus
    Elwon Bakly Elwon Bakly - Ben Emery
    Joey Travolta Joey Travolta - Charlie Cohn
    Paul Hostetler Paul Hostetler - Old Helmut Brink
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