Long before its first public screening in May, SLAM has been keeping you in the loop on the latest public screenings of Doin’ it in the Park, NYC. A first of its kind film, Doin’ it in the Park explores the definition, history, culture and social impact of New York’s basketball scene after co-directors Bobbito Garcia and Kevin Couliau visited and taped runs at 180 basketball courts throughout the five boroughs. The film has gained notoriety and even won numerous awards at an array of film festivals this year, including Best Documentary at the 31st New Jersey International Film Festival, Audience Award Best Feature at the 16th annual Urban World Film Festival, and Best Documentary runner-up at the San Francisco Black Film Festival. It has been screened globally, already showcased in NYC, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston, London, Spain, Switzerland, Austria and Italy, among many other places. Last weekend, Doin’ it in the Park arrived in Tokyo, Japan, from where streetball legend and movie director Kool Bob Love has provided SLAM an exclusive first-hand account of the experience. For more info, visit the film’s Facebook and Twitter page. Check out Bob’s piece below!—Ed.
by Bobbito Garcia / @koolboblove
On December 1, 2012, our film DOIN’ IT IN THE PARK: PICK-UP BASKETBALL, NYC premiered in Tokyo, presented by Nike Sportswear Japan’s Air Force 1 30th Anniversary campaign. Co-director Kevin Couliau and I were flown in to attend, do a Q+A, and play ball at the city’s top courts, against their best outdoor players. Sounds like a dream, right? It was!
For Kevin, the trip was his first visit to the Far East. Mr. “Behind The Scenes” told me, “I’m just as excited to go Tokyo as I was when I went to New York for the first time!” I could identify. I’ve been traveling to Japan since the mid-‘90s, mostly for DJ gigs, and most memorably for the AF1 25th Anniversary in 2007, where I spun in front of 4,000 heads at Club Ageha (still the biggest crowd I’ve ever had indoors to this day). I also played ball that trip at Yoyogi Park in a game organized by ALL-DAY Magazine. Hundreds of people filled the sidelines, making it the largest attended outdoor contest in the country’s history!
Suffice to say, I knew Kevin and I were in for something special when we both arrived. Waiting for us in the hotel were crispy gift pairs of unreleased Nike AF1 Lunars. Sweet!
November 30 was a packed day. We went on a tour of all the top sneaker shops, and saw a bball-themed eatery named Coast to Coast where they show NBA games at all hours and have paintings of Spike Lee, Jack Nicholson, Michael Jordan, etc. on the walls. We even walked past Basketball Street…yes, a road named after our beloved sport!
That evening we slid to Nike’s AF1 Pop-up Shop Opening. A bunch of press interviewed us, and we promoted the heck out of our film (and its tentative commercial release this spring of 2013)! I got on the turntables and spun, then passed the musical duties over to local hip-hop legend DJ Zeebra. Eight-hundred people were in the building, including local actors, fashion designers, ballplayers and sneakerheads. Our trailer played on loop the whole night, which got people hyped for our premiere the following day.
On December 1, we hit Shin Yokohama Park and played ball there for hooours, even though it was freezing! The court was underneath a highway, which created a wind tunnel (sort of). Kevin and I took everything to the hole, and were amazed that some of the local players could still drain deep jumpers with the conditions.
Later that evening, exhausted and jetlagged as we were (14-hour time difference from Tokyo to New York), we introduced DOIN’ IT IN THE PARK: PICK-UP BASKETBALL, NYC to an amped up crowd at Vacant. Nike had created a sub-titled Japanese version, and we were beyond happy at how the crowd was reacting. We didn’t know how some of the New York slang would translate, however the audience was laughing, cheering, oohing and aahing just as much as if we were screening it in Harlem (well, almost)!
During the Q+A, Tana, a locally celebrated ballhandling wizard, commented that our film was, “the best movie about basketball, ever.” He wasn’t the only one in the audience who was moved. “This is the fifth screening I’ve been to,” shared Bang Lee, who lived in NYC for six years just so he could experience bball culture, “and I’ve cried at every single one. I love the playground basketball so much.”
The bond we were creating between us, our film, and the diehard core Tokyo basketball community (and beyond) continued on December 2, as we spent seven hours hitting Japan’s most hallowed asphalt: the Jordan Court, Yoyogi Park and Komazawa Park.
The Jordan Court was built by the brand only 10 years ago, and reminded me of West 4th with its small fenced-in space. Kevin pulled out his medium format camera and photographed the 4-on-4 half court co-ed games. Women are very much a part of Tokyo’s basketball matrix. We saw them playing at every spot we hit, whether on their own rim, integrated with men, or dribbling with their children on the sideline. (Kevin also dropped by the SOME CITY Men’s Tournament, where an amazing 80 percent of all fans were of the opposite sex.)
Next up was Yoyogi Park, Japan’s ground zero for 5-on-5 pick-up basketball. At one point, there were five teams waiting for next! Felt just like New York. There were all the best local players mixed in with white, black and Latino visitors/ex-pats from the US. There was the sprinkling of young teenagers trying to get in the main run to prove they were worthy. There were 50 people on the side hanging out, mostly watching, with a couple heckling! (They were Americans; Japan’s customs apparently don’t allow for much trash talking.)
Last stop was Komazawa Park, the OG court of Japan. Understand—there are only 25 outdoor locations to play ball in the entire country. You read that correctly. Lovers of the asphalt game used to take mobile rims, set them up in parking lots, play, then break them down and find the next spot to run the following day. In the early ‘90s, a local organizer fought through government red tape to put up a backboard at Komazawa. The space has been sacred ever since.
With only one backboard, 3-on-3 half court games rule at Komazawa. Kevin and I had to wait three games to get on, and similar to Yoyogi, the place was just bustling with culture and community. One cat had the BBQ grill out with some good smelling chicken! Two soccer freestylers were practicing on the side while listening to Big Daddy Kane coming out their boom box. Dudes would lose, jump on a skateboard for 15 minutes, then come back and wait to get back on. One guard was dressed head to toe in gear with an ugly stars and planets galaxy print. He could play, though! (Same for homeboy who had on skinny jeans and Nike Dunks.)
When the adults were done, the shorties took over the court. They had been waiting all afternoon for their time to shine. Like I said, it’s just like New York! We focused our film on NYC because it is the recognized Mecca for the sport, but one doesn’t have to be from there to identify with the culture. It’s apparent that pick-up is a universal movement.
On December 3, Bang Lee’s roommate Achan gave me a ride to the airport so I could return home to New York. He was really inspired by me and Kevin’s film. “I stopped playing basketball after our big earthquake in 2010,” he explained to Bang, who translated for me. “I was too depressed. After seeing the screening on Saturday, though, I want to start playing again. The film reminded me how much joy I can experience on the court. Thank you for that.”
Hearing that was the highlight of the trip!
DOIN’ IT IN THE PARK: PICK-UP BASKETBALL, NYC will be available for digital download/view directly from our site doinitinthepark.com this Spring of 2013. Hoping that we can positively affect a lot more people throughout the world when it drops!
Shout out to Sean Tucker, Bang Lee, Achan, Ebi, Bon, Katoya-ALL DAY, Mc Mamushi, and all the other ballplayers and activists who made our Tokyo trip so special. Woooooord.