Lost in the shuffle of a typical opening weekend in movie theaters was a smaller film that opened in just New York and Los Angeles. The film, Elevate, follows four high school-aged basketball players from West Africa in their transition to America via hoops.
Why does this film matter for Spurs fans? Well, Elevate was directed by Anne Buford, who happens to be the younger sister of Spurs GM RC Buford. In fact, RC is listed as a producer of the film, along with Spurs owner Peter Holt.
Elevate hit theaters in New York and LA on Friday, but I was able to screen it back in March as it was accepted to the SXSW Film festival. I probably should have written about it then, but alas, here we are. I can tell you that the film is an excellent watch. There’s a good mix of humor and playfulness from the players involved, and an emotional aspect of homesickness and detachment that is sure to make your living room — or wherever you watch it — a little dusty.
Our man Dan Devine over at Yahoo! Sports had a good piece about the film on Friday, including some quotes from both Anne and RC:
The inspiration to make a sports-themed first feature came, in part, from Anne’s big brother, R.C. Buford, a basketball lifer who now serves as the general manager of the San Antonio Spurs. (He’s also one of the film’s producers, along with Spurs owner Peter Holt.) From their youth in Wichita, Kan., Anne said, basketball was a constant in their lives.
As Anne Buford tells it, R.C. planted the seeds of “Elevate” with one phone call.
“My brother called me, I think, in the fall of 2004 and said, ‘The junior African national team is on a tour, and they’re going to be coming to New York … and I hopefully am going to be adopting or taking guardianship of a young man on that team named Alexis Wangmene from Cameroon. Would you go say hi?'” she said.
And so, armed with “six dozen Krispy Kreme donuts,” she set off to the hotel where Alexis, now a senior on the University of Texas basketball team, and his teammates were staying.
“I met this group of amazing, bright-eyed, tall, very interesting kids from Cameroon, Senegal and Nigeria,” she said. “I was so fascinated by them.”
If you live in New York or Los Angeles, track this film down and check it out. If you don’t live in either of those cities, hold tight as I’m sure you’ll cross paths with it soon. In fact, it appears that it will be showing in San Antonio on November 4.