BURGER-MAIN-Children play basketball in African – courtesy RiverRun

The RiverRun International Film Festivals has teamed up with Marketplace Cinemas in Winston-Salem to present a special screening of the documentary Hoops Africa: Ubuntu Matters on Tuesday, Dec. 5, with filmmaker and North Carolina native Taylor Sharp scheduled to attend.

“We always like to showcase North Carolina filmmakers, both during our annual festival and year-round,” said Rob Davis, RiverRun executive director. “Hoops Africa was made by Taylor Sharp, a talented young filmmaker from Morganton, who is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill. Additionally, Winston-Salem native and NBA player Chris Paul is featured in the documentary, making for another local connection.”

“It was the concept of Ubuntu that captivated me during my time volunteering in Zimbabwe with Hoops 4 Hope after my first year at UNC, and the people I met there had inspiring stories that I wanted to share with the world,” Sharp recalled. “It was on my 17-hour flight home from South Africa that I was serendipitously seated next to Dan Hedges, a cinematographer who also called North Carolina home, and we vowed one day to return together to bring these stories to life. With the rapid growth of basketball, in part due to the efforts of the NBA, coalesced with the stories I had a yearning to tell, it was clear to me that this chapter of my life was meant to be devoted to filmmaking.”

“Ubuntu” is a Nguni Bantu term from the Southern African region that roughly translates to “human kindness,” and expresses a philosophy in “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.”

The Hoops 4 Hopes (H4H) is a global not-for-profit program that has supported youth development in Southern Africa since 1995. It educates and empowers children to become productive adults, engage in healthy lifestyles, manage life’s challenges, and become leaders within their communities and throughout the world. The program reaches some 10,000 children a year (ages 6-16) in more than 70 schools across Africa.

Hoops Africa examines how the Ubuntu philosophy was a principal component of the Boston Celtics’ 2008 NBA Championship, documents the historic 2015 NBA Africa Game, and features a stellar line-up of NBA superstars including Paul, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, Adam Silver, Luc Mbah a Moute, Luol Deng and many others.

In addition to the Marketplace screening, RiverRun will present free screenings of the film at local schools with Sharp in attendance.

“In many ways, we had a clear vision for what the film would ultimately become,” Sharp explained. “We just had to navigate how and where the puzzle pieces would fit together. Fortunately, whenever there was a potential roadblock, and we pushed through and found the right person to contribute their talents, write a check, make a connection, or give us some words of wisdom. The optimist in me says that the universe grants good-natured and well-intentioned projects what they need and when they need it, and that was certainly the case for this film. It was an Ubuntu effort throughout, and the film’s success can be attributed to countless individuals who contributed in some way.”

Hoops Africa marks Sharp’s debut as executive producer and co-director (with Hedges), and although it’s only his first film, he said it’s an experience he will forever treasure.

“From Brooklyn to Milan to Harare, I’ve traveled all over the world sharing this film, leaving each audience with a knowledge of Ubuntu and the work of Hoops 4 Hope and the NBA,” Sharp said. “While the film is globally applicable, there’s something special for me to bring to home to the state that made me who I am. When I look out over audiences of students, especially, it’s easy me for me to relate to them, as it was not long ago that I was sitting where they sit. I know North Carolina and its inhabitants possess the ability to be beacons of Ubuntu, and I hope the communities that see this film are reminded of that.”

The 2020 RiverRun International Film Festival is scheduled for March 26-April 5.

See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. © 2019, Mark Burger.

Wanna go?

The RiverRun International Film Festival’s screening of Hoops Africa: Ubuntu Matters will be presented at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, at Marketplace Cinemas, 2095 Peters Creek Pkwy. in Winston-Salem. Tickets are $3. For more information, call (336) 724-1502 or visit the official RiverRun website, www.riverrunfilm.com/. The official website for   Hoops Africa is www.hoopsafricafilm.com/, and the website for Taylor Sharp’s production company is www.bluecupproductions.com/.

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