By Alice King
Updated September 26, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

A difficult-to-watch but moving film that’s as much about the liberal guilt of filmmaker Steve James (”Hoop Dreams”) as it is about its subject, Stevie is a compassionate exploration of hopelessness. Stevie, a troubled kid James once mentored, is, more than 10 years later, a deep-in-trouble grown man: He’s survived mind-boggling dysfunction only to perpetrate abuse on a child in his care. Unable to remain the neutral observer, James reinvolves himself with the bent-on-destruction Stevie, and the doc becomes a sadly fascinating view of the burdens of advantage colliding with the mire of disadvantage. EXTRAS James and crew’s commentary is a virtual Documentary Filmmaking 101, with notes on everything from the ethics of butting in to handling background noise.