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P&T Film Club: "Elevate"

Guys, there's a movie premiering in New York tonight, it's vouched for by some dear friends of P&T, and I'd like to vouch for it as well. It is Elevate, a documentary about teenagers coming up through the SEEDS Academy, a basketball training center in Senegal. We at P&T have a very warm history with Senegalese ballplayers, (big ups to Cheikh Samb and Mouhamed Sene) but we've never really gotten to see how folks from all the way over there get all the way over here. In Elevate, the camera follows four individuals: Aziz, Assane, and Dethie-- all big men-- and Byago, a rangy, jittery point guard (and my favorite of the four), as they train, compete, and just lamp with their bros. The goal for all four is to earn scholarships to American schools at which educations and more, better basketball await. Three of them make that jump toward their ambitions, stepping simultaneously into a world of gawking teenagers, cafeteria food, snow, and countless other jarring bits of American scholastic experience. One of them initially does not, because of some sort of visa-related snag in the process.

That process, as you'd imagine, is neither certain nor clean-cut. Watch as the four youngsters are recruited, coached, and chaperoned by foreigners, and you may raise an eyebrow on occasion. There are all sorts of intentions that go into an American high school coach traveling all the way to Senegal to handpick a basketball player and escort him back to, say, Connecticut. There's a gravity with which people converge upon these young men-- and a nonchalance with which they desert them-- that might leave you a bit uneasy.

One of the documentary's most admirable qualities, though, is that the filmmakers rarely editorialize the events in order to make a point. They merely present the individuals and circumstances involved and allow you to draw your own conclusions, whatever those may be ("Show, don't tell", am I right!?). Part of that, I suspect, stems from content-- the genuine likability of the four young men, the quality of the actual basketball footage-- that is entertaining and engaging enough on its own. If you're so inclined, you could view this movie with a political bent. If not, I'm certain you'll still love these guys and enjoy watching them learn the game.

So, if you're in the mood for a movie, I recommend Elevate. I've seen most of the other ones out, and few of them are worth watching. This one is, I think. After the jump, you'll find the trailer.