Fathers of the Sport Slam Dunks into Cannes; Documentary to Premiere at Agora@Cannes Film Festival

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Documentary that uncovers the colorful and compelling history of playground basketball, has been selected to premiere at the Agora Lumiere Showcase on May 20, 2006 in Cannes, France. Produced by Providence Films/Trace Entertainment and directed by Xavier Mitchell, the film chronicles the lives and stories of the many “legends” and unsung heroes who dominated the early playground basketball courts in New York, Philly, DC, and Chicago.

Fathers of the Sport, a documentary that uncovers the colorful and compelling history of playground basketball, has been selected to premiere at the Agora Lumiere Showcase on May 20, 2006 in Cannes, France. Produced by Providence Films/Trace Entertainment and directed by Xavier Mitchell, the film chronicles the lives and stories of the many “legends” and unsung heroes who dominated the early playground basketball courts in New York, Philly, DC, and Chicago. With images, music, and footage from the 30’s through the 70’s, Fathers of the Sport tells the story of these asphalt warriors who escaped and rose above an American social culture embedded with racism, war, oppression, and poverty through a mutual love and respect for the game. A limited theatrical release for the film is set for fall, 2006. Actor/director Penny Marshall has provided creative consulting and resources for the project. Frederico Lapenda, an executive at Mandalay Sports Entertainment, owner of Paradigm Entertainment Group and partner in Mandalay/Lone Runner Films has signed on as executive producer.

“We are so honored to be selected by Agora@Cannes,” says director Xavier Mitchell. “For me, the film was an important story that needed to be told. In the early 60s and 70s, the competitions that took place in city parks across the United States was the genesis of the entertainment and excitement we now know to be synonymous with the NBA. Some of these players’ names are well known, but many are not, save for the thousands of fans who packed these parks to see them play. These known and obscure talents of the asphalt are truly fathers of the sport.”

The film examines the legends of playground basketball and the effects that commercialism has had on the sport. From the dazzling display of theatrics demonstrated on the street, these players helped shape and transform the game from conservative basic dribbling and shooting into high-flying dunks and arguably one of the most profitable and exciting multi-billion dollar franchises for merchandising, entertainment, and advertising the world has ever seen. It is the influence of these self-trained playground basketball legends that brought style to an NBA that sorely lacked excitement and entertainment value. The playground’s convergence with the NBA was a major turning point in the history of basketball -- the game was forever changed.

And, through the eyes and ears of basketball legends of the 60s and 70s from Rucker Park in New York to the Baker League of Philadelphia, the trials of transcending and transitioning from street games into the world of the NBA, given the prevailing racial and economic climate, is examined. What happened to those who went pro, versus those who did not, offers a curious view into the human psyche and the issue of corporate responsibility. Pro basketball legends such as Joe “Jellybean” Bryant (father of Kobe Bryant), Julius “Dr. J.” Erving, Chris Mullen as well as street legends Richard “Pee Wee” Kirkland and Joe “The Destroyer” Hammond, discuss the current players in the new era of commercialism.

Says Blaine McManus, producer, “You can’t help but be moved by these players. Their stories shaped an industry in an era that will never be repeated. They are living proof that it all started in the streets and on the playgrounds.” Regarding the film’s appeal, McManus furthered, “When we screened selected clips from the movie at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, the audience was engaged and responsive, particularly during the three hour panel discussion to near-capacity crowds. The appeal of Fathers of the Sport is tremendous and we expect the same at Cannes. This is a great opportunity for us to give momentum to the film before its release to a wide, international audience.”

Producer/director Xavier Mitchell, president of Providence Films and creative force behind Fathers of the Sport, brings to the project not only his deep respect and knowledge of the game of basketball, but also his many relationships with basketball royalty. Mitchell has worked in the entertainment industry for 15 years, developing, producing and directing music videos and commercials. He also has extensive experience in the music arena as a concert producer, manager and promoter for such acts as MC Hammer, Das Effect and the Black Thunder showcase. A portion of the proceeds from Fathers of the Sport will be donated to the Retired Players Association to offer support to former players and their families and Mitchell is creating a collector’s edition library series on selected street legends which will detail each player’s history and contribution to the sport. To augment the film’s historical content, Mitchell plans to release an R&B/urban music soundtrack in the fall which captures the heart and soul of the 60s and 70s. Additionally, Mitchell is working with Penny Marshall and the Maloofs Brothers on The Rucker, a biopic on Holcombe Rucker who created the Rucker Tournament in New York. His film, Harlem Tiger Man has been admitted into the Hollywood Black Film Festival in June, 2006. His company, Providence Films is also developing several television and film projects.

Producer Blaine McManus’ experience in the entertainment industry spans from writing and packaging sitcoms and reality television in the early 90's to production design and art direction for numerous films, commercials, television specials, and music videos. After founding Trace Entertainment as a production design service in 1996, he worked with brand name commercials such as Pacific Bell, Nissan, Gatorade and music videos for popular artists such as The Backstreet Boys, Snoop Dogg and Master P. In 2000, Blaine expanded Trace Entertainment to a full-service production company with a focus on feature films and television. Today, along with Fathers of The Sport, McManus/Trace Entertainment brings two additional films, Shut Up and Shoot and Bad Guys, recently produced and being prepped for screening and marketing for worldwide distribution at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

In its sixth year, Agora@Cannes brings together filmmakers from various countries throughout the world. Agora organizes independent African Diaspora festival owners, producers, filmmakers through screenings, discussion and networking events and offers a forum for dialogue on global issues such as distribution, technology and access to financial capital. Agora has partnered with over thirty Black and Pan-African festivals to present content at Cannes. Past Agora participants and award winners include producer/director Melvin Van Peebles, activist Rev. Jesse Jackson and actor/activist Danny Glover. Agora’s founder, Marc Nekaitar, was recently appointed to the France Film Commission.

For more information on Fathers of the Sport and Providence Films, visit http://www.fathersofthesport.com or email info @ fathersofthesport.com.

Editors Note: Please contact Ginger Campbell at ginger @ snap-productions.com for jpegs of images.

Photo Captions: Photo 1 - Ruckers, NY basketball game, circa 1940s

Photo 2 - Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, Julius “Dr. J.” Erving, James “Fly” Williams, Joe Hammond

Photo 3 – Lucius Allen, Penny Marshall, director Xavier Mitchell

Photo 4 – Richard “Pee Wee” Kirkland, Streetz and director Xavier Mitchell

Photo 5- Julius Erving with fans

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