The Graveyard is not for the timid. The Graveyard is not for the weak. The Graveyard is not for the weak-of-heart. It sits in the middle of downtown Albany, NY and it is the subject of a new documentary on "streetball".
Like legendary Rucker Park in Harlem, Barry Farms in DC and Jackson Park in Chicago, the Graveyard is a magnet for those wishing to prove themselves in the tough, rugged, and sometimes perilous environment of streetball arenas where flesh gets bruised and egos battered. It's describe as a typical urban basketball court with concrete, graffiti, netted rims (or not), and surrounded by trees and picnic tables where those waiting for"next" plays cards and talk trash.
A new documentary, Ballin' At The Graveyard: Life and Pickup Basketball At One American Park chronicles urban basketball in Albany, NY as a raw, real occurrence anchored in the true African American experience by taking you deep inside the intricate culture of urban pickup basketball and its players. Co-producer/Director and Syracuse native, Basil Anastassiou says that the Graveyard is far more than a basketball court. "It's a proving ground, a barber shop, a classroom, a family table, a church. I'ts a place of belonging and a critical gathering place in the community." The characters in the documentary run the spectrum: court judges and judged alike, weekend warriors, college players, guys in their 40's, guys in their 20's, fathers and sons.
Anastassiou and his co-producer/director Paul Kentoffio thought that the depth of community at the Graveyard and the great characters, trash talk and energy would lend to an honest depiction of an important subculture not seen on film since Hoop Dreams. Anastassiou is a 'baller. He's played at the Graveyard for over 20 years. And before that it was Barry Park, Thornden Park and Comfort Tyler Park here in Syracuse. He hopes that this documentary will surprise and entertain people while simultaneously knocking down some widely held stereotypes about men who play on urban courts. He exudes a sense of pride when talking about the Graveyard, "Lamar Odom and Sam Perkins used to play at the court. Mike Tyson used to sit on the bench and watch his manager Rory Holloway play. We have a number of really good younger players including Lloyd "Pooh-man" Johnson who played in the Italian league last year and was second in the world in scoring at 34 points per game."
Ballin' At The Graveyard is being hailed as "hilarious and heartwarming" - Joe Berlinger, Academy Award-nominated director, Paradise Lost and "a mind and heart changer of the greatest kind" - Dr. Alice Green, Founding Board Member African American Cultural Center of the Capital Region. The film makes its Syracuse area premier at the Manlius Cinema from September 20-26th. View the trailer.