EXCLUSIVE: RTG Features, the sister studio to basketball media company Slam, is partnering with arts organization Heartland Film to launch the first annual Slam Film Festival dedicated to basketball-themed movies.
The festival, which will take place February 16-18, 2024, at Living Room Theaters in Indianapolis, will be a mix of world premiere titles, recent festival circuit movies and iconic films. The event will be the first-ever film festival exclusively focused on basketball, and is launched in celebration of Slam’s 30th anniversary in 2024. Scroll down for the lineup.
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There will be 30th anniversary screenings of Steve James’ classic doc Hoop Dreams, William Friedkin’s Nick Nolte and Shaquille O’Neal film Blue Chips and Jeff Pollack’s Above The Rim. Newer films set to screen will include Palm Springs 2024 title Amongst The Trees, exec-produced by NBA star Paul George, and recent doc biopic Stephen Curry: Underrated (2023).
In addition to screenings and post-screening Q&As, the festival will also feature panel conversations with filmmakers, player-owned production companies, and network executives in the sports film and documentary space. ESPN Films, which is celebrating the 15th anniversary of their popular 30 for 30 series this year, is joining the festival as a sponsor and will host a conversation looking back at the basketball documentaries they’ve produced.
“This festival has been years in the making, and we couldn’t think of a better place to launch it than the Hoosier State in partnership with Heartland Film,” said Aron Phillips, Artistic Director of the festival and CEO of RTG Features. “For 30 years now Slam has been the most authentic brand in basketball storytelling, and we’re excited to showcase some of our favorites—new and old, fiction and nonfiction—as we kick off our yearlong celebration.”
“When Aron reached out to us with this idea we absolutely loved it,” added Michael Ault, President of Heartland Film. “Our mission is to curate, promote, and celebrate thoughtful and engaging films from diverse perspectives. While basketball-related films have certainly been featured in our programs before, it’s long overdue to have a festival dedicated solely to hoops.”
Indianapolis-based nonprofit arts organization Heartland Film runs the 11-day Heartland International Film Festival in October and the Indy Shorts International Film Festival in July.
The initial programming slate for the 2024 Slam Film Festival consists of the following movies (with blurbs provided by the event):
Above the Rim (1994) – 30th Anniversary
Directed by Jeff Pollack
Written by Barry Michael Cooper & Jeff Pollack
In New York City, where thousands of teenagers compete for very few chances to play professional basketball—and the fame and money that come with it—one talented young man must choose between a scholarship to college and immediate wealth in this drama set on the blacktop courts of Harlem.
Amongst the Trees (2024)
Directed by Trent Ubben & Jack Jensen
Amongst the Trees follows an upstart men’s basketball program at Copper Mountain College—a tiny community college in the middle of the Mojave Desert in Joshua Tree, California—during the final week of their season. In just its second year of the team’s existence, the film drops viewers directly into the action as the Fighting Cacti make one last push for the playoffs.
Blue Chips (1994) – 30th Anniversary
Directed by William Friedkin
Written by Ron Shelton
Championship-winning coach Pete Bell runs the cleanest program in college basketball. But when he finds himself on the brink of his first losing season, Bell decides he must make a risky trade to protect his job: under-the-table dollars for talent.
Candace Parker: Unapologetic (2023)
Directed by Joie Jacoby
A wide-ranging, revealing, and often intimate portrait of WNBA player Candace Parker, one of the most transcendent women’s sports stars in history.
Chang Can Dunk (2023)
Written and directed by Jingyi Shao
Chang Can Dunk follows Chang, a 16-year-old, Asian American high school student in the marching band, who bets the school basketball star that he can dunk by Homecoming.
D. Wade: Life Unexpected (2020)
Directed by Bob Metelus
For a decade, Dwyane Wade intimately documented his life and career with a film crew. The result is a remarkably candid portrait of one of the greatest NBA players of all time.
Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot (2008)
Directed by Adam Yauch
In 2006, the top 24 high school basketball players in the nation descended on Harlem’s Rucker Park to compete in the first annual Elite 24. Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot follows eight of those players as they showcase their skills at the most legendary playground in the world.
Handle With Care: The Legend of The Notic Streetball Crew (2021)
Directed by Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux & Kirk Thomas
Handle With Care chronicles the rise, fall and rebirth of The Notic, an upstart streetball collective from Canada in the early 2000s. While their creative basketball moves brought them global fame as teenagers, it set them at odds with the status quo in a battle involving self-expression, race and rejection. Driven by a twenty-year quest to finish their mixtape trilogy, the documentary charts how the group of friends from Vancouver played outside the confines of the NBA yet still left an indelible imprint on the game forever.
Hoop Dreams (1994) – 30th Anniversary
Directed by Steve James
Two ordinary inner-city Chicago kids dare to reach for the impossible—professional basketball glory—in this epic chronicle of hope and faith. Filmed over a five-year period, Hoop Dreams follows young Arthur Agee and William Gates and their families as the boys navigate the complex, competitive world of scholastic athletics, while dealing with the intense pressures of their home lives and neighborhoods.
Perfect in ’76 (2017)
Directed by George Roy
Revisit the journey of the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers and their renowned coach Bobby Knight who led the team to a perfect season of 32-0 and a national championship.
Shattered Glass: A WNBPA Story (2024)
Directed by Andrea Buccilla
This trailblazing documentary is an exhilarating journey into the heart of professional women’s basketball, spotlighting the extraordinary lives, resilience, and triumphant achievements of WNBA MVPs Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones, Nneka Ogwumike, and Sheryl Swoopes.
Stephen Curry: Underrated (2023)
Directed by Peter Nicks
The remarkable coming-of-age story of Stephen Curry—one of the most influential, dynamic, and unexpected players in basketball history—and his rise from an undersized college player at a small town Division I college to a four-time NBA champion.
The Syd + TP Show (2023)
Directed by Carly Usdin
World Champions and bench-warming besties Sydney Colson and Theresa Plaisance are determined to become the faces of the WNBA, despite the fact no one asked them to. This buddy comedy series follows Syd and TP on their quest to become the most famous basketball players on earth through a mix of stunts, interviews, hijinks, and a complete lack of shame.
Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks (2010)
Directed by Dan Klores
Reggie Miller single-handedly crushed the hearts of Knick fans multiple times. But it was the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals that solidified Miller as Public Enemy #1 in New York City.
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