The House That Rob Built is a sports documentary with a powerful story of community and family overcoming adversity and building something truly special. The titular Rob is Robin Selvig, a college basketball hopeful turned revolutionary coach, who, over an almost 40-year career, transformed a backwater team, the Lady Griz, in a backwater sport, women’s basketball, into a team that rivaled the best and most well-funded teams in America and transformed the status of women’s basketball forever in his home state of Montana.
The film’s greatest strength is that it uses basketball as a framework to tell the much more emotionally powerful story of Selvig, his family, and former team members, as well as the women’s basketball community at large. Selvig’s impact on multiple generations and communities is felt as we hear from some of his first players who are now in their 60s and some of his last players before he retired.
This in addition to the movie featuring many women from rural farm towns and people from lower-class Indian reservations. Directors Jonathan Cipiti and Megan Harrington highlighting how Selvig was able to empower and unite so many ladies from disparate, struggling communities enables The House That Rob Built to be far more powerful than a story of one man or one basketball team would appear to be at first glance.
“…Robin Selvig, a college basketball hopeful turned revolutionary coach…transformed the status of women’s basketball forever in his home state of Montana.“
Despite this, the film’s execution was far from perfect. With a narrative this expansive, it certainly feels scattershot in its placement of interviews and story moments from time to time. I never felt like there was a clear throughline, only segments, and snippets. Similarly, there were probably at least 50 people shown in interviews, and I felt as though The House That Rob Built didn’t do a strong enough job making clear who was who.
The text descriptions of people are filled with a ton of information, but they are only shown once. So after a lengthy gap between a person showing up on screen, there were many times in which I did not know who they were. This never became a major problem, but I could have connected with some of the participants more if I understood their occupation and relation to Selvig better.
What is clear is that this is an incredible story of how a community and institution to empower young working-class women was born and the man that started it all. Selvig took his girls seriously, treated them like people and athletes, and they didn’t let him down. The House That Rob Built is a shining example of bringing people together and empowering them through sports.
"…far more powerful than a story of one man or one basketball team would appear to be at first glance.sport"