Oscar-Winning Film, The Queen of Basketball, Scores An Insightful Conversation about Family, Legacy, and Honoring our Heroes
The truth of the independent film world is that it doesn’t matter if you have the greatest film of the year if people don’t have access to it. As the Founder & CEO of Breakwater Studios and the director of this year’s Academy Award®–winning The Queen of Basketball, Ben Proudfoot knows this quite well. To moderate the conversation about the film and its storyteller, Lusia “Lucy” Harris, Ben enlisted professional communications and media director Nana Adwoa Frimpong with whom he had previously worked with when she moderated a similar event for the Oscar nominated film A Concerto is a Conversation of which he co-directed with Kris Bowers (Academy Award® nominated director and composer). Of the event, Nana shares that “when first considering the backdrop on what a meaningful conversation about Lusia’s life could look like, it was clear that the Museum of Tolerance, with its critical examination of racism and prejudice around the world, would be an excellent foray into conversations about how Lucy overcame every obstacle to eventually be one of the greatest basketball player of all time.” Nana has a natural inclination for insightful and meaningful conversation. Ms. Frimpong has served this role for similar events such as those with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and others. The popularity of this virtual event confirms that even in the wake of a global pandemic, the public cares deeply about the stories of those who have changed the course of society. Panelists ranged from Lucy’s own daughter to NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, and award-winning filmmakers.
A film such as this deserves the most thoughtful and insightful conversation. The importance of Ms. Harris as an athlete, a woman, and a person of color cannot be overlooked. Coming of age on the heels of the first wave of the Civil Rights movement, Lucy proved what could be achieved by a woman of color in an era when it was overwhelmingly difficult. Honing her natural talent, she adamantly persevered to achieve something seemingly impossible; the drafting of a woman into the NBA. A silver medal winner in the 1976 Olympic games and her career with the Houston Angels cements her legacy as one of the most monumental female athletes in U.S. history. In creating The Queen of Basketball, Ben Proudfoot sought to rectify the fact that much of Lucy’s achievements were unheralded by the majority of America because her legacy had been erased.
The online panel discussion of the film and Lucy Harris displayed the respect this remarkable woman so richly deserves. Even the pandemic could not mute the outpouring of praise for Ms. Harris. The conversation was free flowing and engaging but conducting a panel such as this with different people in different locations can be accompanied by a sense of disconnect whether that be due to technology or the psychological aspect of not sharing the same physical space. It was obvious that everyone involved was eager to share how Lucy had such a massive impact on them. Shaq noted the similarities between Lucy and his own mother while Crystal (Lucy’s daughter) spoke to the surprise and joy of witnessing photos and footage previously unseen by her at the film’s Tribeca Screening. The personal and public persona of Lucy Harris found an intersection in this discussion, communicating the larger than life impact she had while still being a devoted mother. Director Ben Proudfoot remarked during the panel, “It’s hard to watch the film and not fall in love with Lucy’s laugh.” Through this panel, the sense of Lucy’s magnetic personality resonates loudly. Sadly, Lucy passed away prior to the film’s release but this production will reinforce her legacy as a beacon of inspiration. Nana Adwoa Frimpong notes her admiration of Lucy Harris with a sense of gratefulness in being moderating this important event. She professes, “Part of my mission is to elevate the lives and stories of women and people of color. I think it’s imperative that we know these stories and definitively point to the ways that people have changed the lives and experiences of people they may not know because it helps further break down barriers and give way for others to do the same. Lucy was the first woman to be drafted to the NBA and now we have a WNBA where women can play and see their dreams actualized. That wasn’t always possible for Lucy. Being part of this conversation was further proof for me that there needs to be more advocacy around uplifting these voices so that more people can feel emboldened to try something new and reach beyond the boundaries of what even they imagined to be possible.”
In addition to the Oscar Award, The Queen of Basketball is a Peabody Award Nominee, and the 2021 Critic’s Choice Documentary Award Winner for Best Documentary Short.
Writer: Mike Winston