This homegrown documentary (co-produced by Spectrum 8 Theatres co-owner and b-ball enthusiast Keith Pickard) about pick-up basketball games in Washington Park manages, on a purely entertainment level, to celebrate sports; it also takes audiences into a subculture many probably never knew existed. It then ties this subculture into the larger Capital Region community. Ballin’ at the Graveyard is a genuine eye-opener, and, best of all, it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
The power of the film is rooted in the men who play ball, and emphasized through the film’s ingenious structure. Directors Basil Anastassiou (who, as a regular player, is a key supporting character in his own movie) and Paul Kentoffio skip any personal introductions and instead plunge us directly into the world of the “ballers,” a group of men who congregate at the Washington Park courts (aka the “Graveyard”) every weekend through the spring and summer.
We’re right there, courtside, as the men select teammates and negotiate who’s going to play next. (This process is as competitive as the actual games.) The play is a mix of finesse, physical force and psychological combat. The trash-talking is epic; the gamesmanship is at a high level.
We are gradually introduced to key players in interview segments that break up (and comment on) the action. Later, when the film takes a turn and begins to examine the off-court lives of the regulars, the interest level is heightened and the dramatic payoff is richer.
The harsh digital look of the movie is perfectly matched to the subject and action, and adds to the sense of immediacy. You may not like basketball, but you will like these thoroughly winning basketball enthusiasts.