“Q Ball” directed by Michael Tolajian takes a look inside San Quentin’s basketball team (San Quentin Warriors), a program that provides inmates with an opportunity to focus their energies on positive goals which in turn improves their social skills along with other benefits that might ultimately reduce recidivism.
An engaging and well-edited documentary, “Q Ball” will be released May 17 in Los Angeles and May 24 in New York before it debuts on Fox Sports’ “Magnify” series May 28. It’s not to be missed.
Just the mention of the infamous prison San Quentin is enough to bring a shiver of discomfort to many. Located 20 miles north of San Francisco, it’s one of California’s oldest prison and it was designed as a maximum-security facility. San Quentin is where all the state’s death row prisoners are housed but for the majority of the general population (approximately 4,400 total inmates), who is scheduled to be released they participate in a number of rehabilitation programs including psychological counseling and job training. One of the more interesting programs is the basketball team which is supported by the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. Kevin Durant is an executive producer on this film.
It’s heartbreaking to watch the mostly African American squad fly across the basketball court. Skilled athletes each and every one. In a glance, you can see the potential of so many that could have turned pro if their lives had gone in a different direction.
“Q Ball” is an exciting film despite the tragic situation these men find themselves living in. These are real people giving us a quick peek into their complicated lives.
One of the best players and the hope of the team is Harry “ATL” Smith (31), he dreams of being “the first convicted felon to suit up in an NBA jersey” after his release. In the film, it’s noted that he was just six months from his release. Smith was raised in a middle-class environment and actually had college athletic scholarship opportunities. He let his temper get the best of him leading to his incarnation.
The stories of other San Quentin Warriors members is sobering. Many lived in communities that were drug-fueled with parents that suffered from drug addiction while others were active gang members. One team member received an equivalent of a murderer’s sentence for non-violent crimes under the now-discredited “three strikes” law.
The team coach Rafael Cuevas admits to always having a bad temper. That inability to control his anger, 15 years ago, lead to him murdering a fellow sports fan who’d banged on his car window in the parking lot outside a San Francisco Giants baseball game. He stabbed him so violently that it sliced off the bottom of the man’s heart.
This rehabilitation program has provided the members of the San Quentin Warriors with discipline and camaraderie and it’s clear that by their shared love of basketball it has been beneficial.
“Q Ball” allows the viewer to take a look into the lives of the players paying close attention to Smith and his release date. Confessing to the camera he wonders and he hopes that his emotional nature won’t
get in his way—again—especially when thinking about how to start a
relationship with the daughter he’s never met.
This film will bore no one. It’s very well stitched together capturing the highs and lows of the life of the San Quentin Warriors. Some critics might argue that “Q Ball” is just a film and on the surface just using the facts they would be correct. However, if you look closer you will see evidence that rehabilitative programs, like this, offer much more than just an opportunity for these men to show their athletic prowess. It provides an opportunity for positive individual growth.
“Q Ball” A Fox Sports Films release and presentation of a Heist production in association with Thirty-Five Ventures and Hunting Lane Films.
Directed and written by Michael Tolajian. Featuring Rafael Cuevas, Lt. Sam Robinson, Cornell Shields, Allan McIntosh, Harry Smith, Dejon Joy, Anthony Ammons, Tevin Fournette, and Stacey Redman.