It’s hard to adequately convey the impact and the enduring legacy that writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s film “Love & Basketball” has achieved.
I wager that there isn’t a filmmaker of color alive today that was not influenced by the memory of watching it on the big screen. Prince-Bythewood created a love story that is still as relevant today as the day it hit the theaters — released April 21, 2000.
Despite “Love & Basketball” now being a classic film in truth a then young filmmaker —Prince-Bythewood had to struggle to get studio interest and found it equally challenging to cast the lead role, one that was deeply personal. It was after all the directors’ feature debut.
Now considered a classic and to celebrate two decades the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will virtually host ACADEMY ALL ACCESS: LOVE & BASKETBALL (2000) hosted by writer-producer-director Patty Jenkins on MAY 14 5:00 PM PT.
Special guests include writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood, actors Sanaa Lathan, Alfre Woodard, and Kyla Pratt, and editor Terilyn A. Shropshire.
Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Prince-Bythewood and the conversations inevitably drifted to “Love & Basketball” where she confessed that when she first started writing the screenplay her goal was to create a black “When Harry Met Sally” a film she admitted to admiring.
Standing on the advice of write what you know her film is a semi-autobiographical story with a drive to tell the story from a Black woman’s point-of-view as she dreamed of becoming the first woman in the NBA.
Admitting that Hollywood didn’t embrace “Love & Basketball” and sharing the struggle to get the film completed is one of the reasons — I think — that Hollywood insiders have gathered to celebrate the 20th anniversary. The director has made it clear on many occasions that it was Oscar winner Spike Lee (also, a producer on the film) that motivated New Line to say yes.
Joining the celebration ACADEMY ALL ACCESS: LOVE & BASKETBALL (2000) hosted by writer-producer-director Patty Jenkins on MAY 14 5:00 PM PT with special guests writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood, actors Sanaa Lathan, Alfre Woodard and Kyla Pratt, and editor Terilyn A. Shropshire.
“Love & Basketball” is written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. Produced by Spike Lee, Sam Kitt. Cinematography Reynaldo Villalobos. Production Design Jeffrey Howard. Set Decoration Dena Roth. Film Editing Terilyn A. Shropshire. Music Terence Blanchard. Sound Willie Burton, Marc “M” Fishman, Derek “DMD” Marcil, Frederick “Mastavisa” Howard. Costume Design Ruth Carter.
The film starred Omar Epps (Quincy McCall), Sanaa Lathan (Monica Wright), Alfre Woodard (Camille Wright), Dennis Haysbert (Zeke McCall), Debbi Morgan (Nona McCall), Harry J. Lennix (Nathan), Kyla Pratt (Young Monica), Glenndon Chatman (Young Quincy), Christine Dunford (Coach Davis), Erika Ringor (Sidra O’Neal), Regina Hall (Lena Wright).
Structured like the four quarters of a basketball game, Love & Basketball follows young Quincy and Monica as they pursue their athletic dreams in tandem over 12 years. In 1981, Quincy McCall (Omar Epps) and Monica Wright (Sanaa Lathan) are neighbors and childhood sweethearts brought together by a shared love of basketball. Over the years, the two falls in and out of each other’s lives as they struggle with mental health, family problems, and physical injury. By 1993, the fate of their love comes down to a final game of one-on-one, with the stakes higher than ever.
In her confident directorial debut, Gina Prince-Bythewood challenged stereotypes of race and gender with this nuanced examination of black love. She succeeded in depicting the growing pains of a couple matched in athletic skill with unwavering authenticity, never sacrificing the integrity of her characters for the sake of convention.
Twenty years later, “Love & Basketball” remains a model for the progressive representation of black middle-class youth.
This program is supported in part by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture.
“Love & Basketball” is available for streaming on Google Play, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, and Amazon Prime Video.