This is a review of ‘My Game‘, an hour long documentary by director-producer tandem Carlo Ledesma and Mel Lozano that aims to highlight the roots of some of our basketball heroes, namely Nike talents Ren-Ren Ritualo, Don-Don Hontiveros, Arwind Santos, Jobe Nkemakolam, James Yap and Rico Maierhofer. Premiered last October 18, 2007 at the Powerplant Mall in Makati, it was a well – attended affair with a lot of prominent College and PBA stars in attendance, as well as numerous press and celebrities. Here are some reflections about the documentary. I will be writing about the players themselves in a future post.
First and foremost I’ll go right out and say that it is a terrific piece of work. Carlo Ledesma and Mel Lozano obviously put in a great amount of time and effort in this, but the most important factor that they brought is the one thing that previous and current coverage of basketball in the Philippines consistently fails to deliver – and that is soul.
99% of what basketball is is unfortunately the most difficult to define. If basketball is to be featured or discussed in the Philippine press, it more often than not focuses on the superficial. The good looks of its players, the ‘high-life’ their large salaries and popularity allow them to lead, the showbiz controversies – usually having to do with an affair with some starlet or sad attempt at acting – all mostly fluff pieces accompanied by pumping hiphop music and cheerful commentators hamming it up to death.
This in stark contrast to what it really feels like to be a basketball player in the rough and tumble neighborhood courts all over the country. There, you have to earn a chance to play. And when you do, you have to prove yourself every minute that you’re in there against other guys just as desperate for a chance as you. And it will be bloody. It will be violent. It can occasionally become deadly. And in the midst of all the drama and supreme effort of a village, barrio or liga basketball game, there will be humor. There will be fun and there will be camaraderie. For hundreds of thousands of young Filipino men just learning their way through life, it is more often than not the very first place where life hits them in the face for the very first time – usually via someone’s elbow. The experience is so real and it is so thrilling that they will either cower back home or come back over and over again, and they will practice their hearts out to learn skills in order to be amongst those big boys playing in the neighborhood courts. It is the unofficial proving ground for many generations of Filipinos, for many the place where you first learn how to be a man. And as such, the court becomes a sacred place, your relationship with your teammates a sacred bond and the sport, earning a sacred place in your heart.
Saying that, and comparing to the occasional basketball references in shows like Startalk or The Buzz, and you’d know what I mean about the lack of reality. I vaguely remember how many years ago I ached to have that reality expressed on local popular media. In fact, it had directly motivated me to make this very blog at some point – when after developing the skills to make one I decided amongst my first projects would be a website where I can write about basketball, focusing on the passion rather than stats and the lives of its players (which I couldn’t care a whit about anyway). As for popular media I’m fairly sure I just gave up on it. Gossip shows and even so called ‘sports’ shows continually say how much people would rather learn about Kris and James instead of the admittedly far less glamorous number of flights of stairs James would run up and down in their high school building to develop his stamina, so any material which discusses the true stuff of what Philippine basketball is really about was essentially a hoop dream, so to speak.
But guess what? Carlo and Mel did it, and there I was sitting with my girlfriend in the packed, freezing Rockwell theatre, surrounded by pro and amateur basketball players and Nike and media personalities, my mouth occasionally agape at the reality finally brought to life at a Philippine movie screen no less. At the end of it, Jill said ‘So that’s what basketball is about.’, as if in final recognition of all the crazy, all-consuming, overwhelming obsession I have been dealing with ever since I’ve learned to dribble a ball. And I could only nod my head in admission and agree.
Yes, I think. Yes, that’s what it’s all about. And I say that from who I am now: an overweight, overindulgent man who enjoys coaching the village 17-under basketball league while analyzing games and writing about it in this blog, to the young boy that I was decades ago, escaping family problems by playing in the many basketball courts of Mandaluyong, touring the town with his teammates and playing in bet games that can last all evening, dealing with the varied, mostly shady characters that the game tends to attract, and loving – absolutely loving with all my heart – every second of it, and cherishing the memories of it now and likely forever. If you ask that boy now, he’d say yes too. That’s what basketball is all about. And he’d thank the makers for it.
Carlo Ledesma’s initial thoughts when he was still making it.
Some Press Releases.
My YouTube Page ftg. most of the MyGame Teaser videos (plus a few other stuff here and there).
Someone in Australia who worked with Carlo on the docu (sorry doesn’t say who he is).
Allorangefilms, Carlo Ledesma’s outfit, where you can check out his Cannes award winning short film ‘The Haircut’ as well.