Saturday, May 18, 2019

Q Ball - SIFF 2019 Documentary Review

The Documentary: Q Ball

The Director: Michael Tolajian

The Story: Documentary that explores a group of men incarcerated at San Quentin who play for the penitentiary's basketball team.

The Review:
Film maker Michael Tolajian has been directing, producing, and editing sports films, shows, and documentaries for many years so teaming up with NBA star Kevin Durant to produce a film about San Quentin penitentiary's basketball team made an awful lot of sense. If you didn't know (I didn't), the bay area prison has a basketball program available to eligible inmates where they practice, run drills, learn the game, and play teams from outside the facility confines including an annual match up against coaches and other personnel from the Golden State Warriors NBA basketball team.

The making of this documentary was very timely as Harry "ATL" Smith, a young man who had once been a prominent collegiate prospect, was living out his final year of prison and was considered to be the team's most talented athlete. His dream was to beat the Golden State team and then earn a tryout for one of their developmental league teams which could lead to a shot at the NBA. A long shot of course given his situation but we all need dreams, right?

Tolajian uses Smith as the centerpiece of the film while also allowing viewers to get to know some of the other member of the San Quentin Warriors including head coach Rafael Cuevas who was serving time for killing a young man in a parking lot after a San Francisco Giants game. While attempts are made to show the humanity of these various men who have been locked up for some pretty serious crimes, there is no denying the events that lead them to this point in the lives. Still, Tolajian offers hope for redemption, recovery, rehabilitation or whatever is necessary for these men to have a chance at life and being part of the basketball team really goes a long way towards those goals.

The game play that Tolajian puts on film is fun to watch as the competition is intense and the games often come down to the last few minutes. Overall the movie is very well put together and really makes you think about who these men are, what got them to this point in their lives, and what kind of future do they have to look forward to.

Q Ball is an official selection of the 2019 Seattle International Film Festival.

To see more reviews, interviews and festival coverage please go to:

TwoOhSix at SIFF 2019

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