Symbolism and Hidden Meanings in Gus Van Sant’s Finding Forrester (2000)


Jamal symbolizes untapped potential hidden in everyday life. His meteoric rise to basketball glory as a dumb jock masks his heart’s desire to simply write better than he already does. His excellence in literature symbolizes wisdom beyond youth. That intelligence is attained not by birthright, wealth or privilege but by hard work and sharpening his brain through keen observation, training and education.


Forrester symbolizes the disenchantment with society’s critical masses. His once-brilliant masterpiece was leveled to what comes out of a critic’s pen instead of what he wrote on the page for others to read. By disappearing from view, he was allowed to be creatively free from critical eyes. But by doing so, he also symbolizes the tragedy of the world losing decades of beautiful art that could potentially change our views but vanished into the wind, lost to History forever.

Professor Crawford

Professor Crawford symbolizes centuries of critics who plague true genius because of the sharp criticism of the less-talented tearing at what they cannot achieve themselves so they can look more important than the true talented individual creating the masterworks. Forrester even recognizes it when speaking w Jamal about failed writers.

The Novel

And the novel symbolizes that even in death, there can be new life. Trusting Jamal to write the perfect forward for what was going to be a monumental second novel symbolizes Forrester’s faith in his 17 year old prodigy.

The Projects

Setting the movie in the Projects of the Bronx instead of starting in Manhattan has the meaning of mastery being hidden in plain sight. The public fails to recognize levels of genius and skill walking around in everyday life in front of their eyes. Jamal’s test scores were the catalyst for his meteoric rise, but he’d always been the same C student hidden in his public school for a decade.

Hiding for decades due to agoraphobia, Forrester proved there is more than meets the eye behind the pulled curtains and shoddy housing projects. Forrester is the ultimate hidden treasure. It’s like finding an old box of papers thrown into the garbage and inside are original, unpublished plays by Shakespeare. It shows us we need to look in places we hadn’t thought to look just in case there is something priceless hidden out of view. But most of all, to be appreciative of that beauty once it’s discovered because we may not see it again.

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5 years ago

nice to see this segment posted in a blog:)

5 years ago
Reply to  Eddie

I’d do more of these, but I don’t type mine up for the podcast…Bobby did for this one. I guess I could take my transcript from YouTube and use that though now that I think of it.

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