By Aaron Zaretsky & Paolo Pagcanlungan
Docu-series True North (Parts 1 & 4) – at Luminato ‘19
The journey of Canadian basketball, starting from the grassroots level, has evolved to new heights. Before a Canadian NBA franchise existed, there were only a handful of Canadians who played in the NBA, and going pro was more of a long-shot wish than a possibility.
After Canada was awarded two NBA franchises, the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies (now Memphis Grizzlies), interest in basketball started to grow in the country. Millions of Canadian youth were inspired when watching players like Vince Carter, Chris Bosh, and Demar DeRozan put on the Raptor jersey, and the scene has now grown to produce the second most NBA players, just after the U.S. With the Raptors now 2019 NBA Champions, more Canadian youth will play basketball and the amount of Canadian NBA players will increase.
Directed by Ryan Sidhoo, the various basketball programs and tournaments in Toronto with all their societal pressures and financial politics are documented in this series. Youth basketball programs are BIG business, and shoe companies like Nike and Adidas take advantage of being able to sponsor the best of programs, because it becomes expensive to fund out-of-pocket. There becomes a dynamic in which goals are distorted with distractions of temporary monetary gain, and the players struggle with this the most. Coaches, too, are pressured to find the next “chosen one” instead of doing what coaches really do: nurture and grow each person under their care.
During the panel discussion, it was agreed upon unanimously on the stage, an illusion is created that all of these young hopefuls with dreams of “going pro” – without any backup plans – would all be realized; the reality is that there is no guarantee. The youth today that live in a world dictated by social media are heavily scrutinized with unique challenges that previous generations never encountered through a digital environment. Life doesn’t get any easier either; from schools closing down, to teammates passing away, to brothers having unexpected children, a multitude of events can happen unaccounted for that test the limits of a boy learning how to be a man.
Throughout True North, the song “My Runaway Train” played by Fain Gang, and is used as a metaphor where the NBA is every dreamer’s final destination. There are several stops along the way. The road is winding, bumpy, steep, and craggy. The train is more packed than a sardine can. For characters Keone, Malachi, Cordell, Jalen and Elijah, none of this seems to matter – they all have just one thing on their mind at all times.
Every episode of True North is freely accessible online at NFB True North Documentary Series.
*Editor’s Note: VIBE105 is the Community Media Partner of Luminato Festival 2019