by Mia Hall / @Mia_HallDaily
While Memorial Day weekend set off the unofficial start of summer, the first public community screening of Doin’ It In The Park marked a resurgence of the pick-up basketball (the playing of basketball for recreational purposes, without a referee or official rules) movement across the globe.
The creators of Doin’ It, a documentary on pick-up basketball in New York City, collaborated with Dekalb Market, Rooftop Films and NYC & Company to make the event possible. Co-directors Bobbito Garcia and Kevin Couliau, who will host events in various cities worldwide this summer, say they are hosting these free screenings to give back to the communities that helped inspire the film.
Brilliant Latin music permeated the atmosphere as DJ Sucio Smash mixed it up on the ones and twos to serve up the soundtrack for the night. Anticipation coruscated throughout the Bike-In Movie audience as they enjoyed delicacies either bought or offered at no cost by Dekalb Market food vendors—networking for business and pleasure—or enjoying copies of SLAM that were distributed at the beginning of the night.
The crowd reacted to what the film will mean for basketball. “I’m glad that the movie is coming out and focusing on New York since the mystique of New York City basketball has been dying down. I hope that this will bring it back up,” said Iggy Gibson, Brooklyn ballplayer and filmmaker. Nelson George, director of Brooklyn Boheme, and Randy Millard of Brownsville, said they came to support and were excited to finally see the film.
It was a reunion for many in attendance; basketball enemies on the court were befriending their former foes to watch an ode to where many of their claims to fame began—pick-up basketball. Ballers, Brooklynites, hipsters, Harlemites, artists, athletic directors and kids of all ages eagerly waited for the streetball cinema to commence. Members of the diverse crowd scuffled to find a seat minutes before the show began. People sat on crates, benches or just found a spot on the ground, as the open space began to fill and they found out the film would go up when the sun went down.
After a brief, stern warning from Bobbito regarding photographic constraints and the repercussions that would take place should those boundaries be violated, the film began.
It opened with a classic scene of a one-on-one game in a park familiar not only to anyone who has been to Brownsville, Brooklyn, but to anyone who has ever played or watched the sport of pick-up. As per the norm, there were athletes and spectators, trash talk—though an additive this time, was cold cash. In case you have not seen a pick-up basketball game before, the definition and history was thoroughly explained shortly thereafter and throughout the film.
The crates that many viewers sat on were parallel to many of the old school, “Cornbread Earl, and Me”-like flashbacks imbued throughout the story. B-Boy Richard “Crazy Legs” Colon, who was also in attendance that night, spoke on his experiences in the parks in the ‘80s.
During the Q+A portion of the event, Bobbito talked about how hard some of the footage was to come by, but also how fortunate he felt to meet various people who helped uncover some key archives. “Filmmakers know that there are sometimes those serendipitous moments when you find small treasures that make a significant impact to the final piece,” Bobbito said. Sometimes, they had to ask players to go to their grandparents’ homes to search through old photo albums, but in the end, they got what they needed to tell their story.
Legends such as Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Kenny Smith, Geoff Huston, “Pee Wee” Kirkland and “Fly” Williams reminisced about the courts where they got their start and still visit on occasion. Younger players who learned from the legends and made a name for themselves, including God Shammgod, Tim “Headache” Gittens, Corey “Homicide” Williams, Milani Malik and Nikki “Little Ratchet” Avery, paid homage to the likes of those who came before them, including those who have passed on, such as Earl “The Goat” Manigault. Many NBA players, including Kenny Anderson, admit that in clutch game-time situations, their mindset went back to the gritty competition in the New York City playgrounds.
To say the film was amazing would be an understatement. Athletes, streetball historians and everyone else could appreciate the creative genius of all who were involved in putting together this independent project. Geroy Grant, who drove Kevin and Bobbito to many of the parks, talked about how he almost cried during one of the shoots and wishes everyone could see some parts that did not make the cut. Only 20 out of 60 interviews were kept for the final project. Even the directors desired to have more interviews seen at another time.
I don’t know if it was because we were outside, but the cinematography, mostly shot by the films co-creator Couliau, made you feel as though you were on a blacktop court competing in a heated streetball game.
From West 4th Street to Rikers Island, the filmmakers were impartial to the type of ballplayers featured in the film; children, senior citizens, inmates, women, physically challenged and people from all ethnic backgrounds were seen on the big screen.
The music was also quite eclectic, which the filmmakers accredit to the relationships they were able to gain over the years. Kevin and his brother David had a relationship with French producer 20Syl, who provided several beats for the film. Further, by working for nine-time Grammy Award winner Eddie Palmieri for his birthday celebration, Garcia was able to have Mr. Palmieri score the film. This was Palmieri’s first time doing that as well.
Bobbito ended the night with this: “If I see five years from now more people playing pick-up basketball than ever. Or if people tell me and Kevin that they either started playing pick-up ball or started playing pick-up ball again because of the film, that would make me really happy.”
For future screenings of Doin’ It in the Park, check out facebook.com/doinitinthepark/info.