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Proviso Probe

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pirate Pride: documentary on Provis East boys hoops program

Yesterday I attended a screening of Pirate Pride at the Gene Siskel Film Center. The one-hour film Pirate Pride is about the glory years of the Proviso East basketball program and how Maywoodians have both made the program successful and gone on to success in the NBA.

The film was produced by David D. Grace and directed by Derek Grace. During the discussion of the film, the Grace's indicated they intend to incorporate more footage about Shannon Brown who was a point guard on the Los Angeles Lakers team that won the NBA championship in 2009.

Since the film is still a work in progress, I hope some of my criticisms will cause the filmmakers to reflect and improve the film.

One person who watched Pirate Pride described it as being like a Chamber of Commerce film. It is also repetitive without offering significant insights. To be successful in sports one needs pride, drive, talent, practice and a supporting school and community. OK. So what?

When speaking to the audience the filmmakers expressed their motivation as being to present a positive image of Maywood to counter the negative information about Maywood. Presenting all positive for an hour makes the film tedious.

The 1969 team won the state championship during a very tumultuous time. The story for this part of the film should probably look something like a documentary version of Remember the Titans. Instead one of the people interviewed characterizes Proviso as going through the same issues as every other school in the country during that period.

Really? I'm not an expert on that era, but it seems like Proviso was facing more issues than the typical suburban school or typical majority Black school.

This also ties into a another weakness of the film. The film seems to be made by Maywoodians and for Maywoodians. It's assumed that the audience knows who Fred Hampton was when he's mentioned (once). One person gives the boundaries on where Blacks were allowed to live in Maywood, but this isn't explained. When this information is given, the film should show a map of Maywood and area Blacks were constrained to.

During the discussion a bunch of time went into praising the movie and people saying how important it would be to show this film to elementary school students.

As a morality tale, a Spiderman cartoon would be better. None of the people being interviewed tell about an obstacle they've overcome. They don't discuss key decisions in their lives. They are presented as people who decided to be really good at basketball and they worked long hours and became really good at basketball.

Having spent some time with athletes, chess players and competing in math competitions myself, there's a disconnect with reality. To become the best, one has to work really hard. But for 99+% of people becoming a great basketball player is not an option. Far less than one in a thousand has the potential to become a grand master chess player no matter how much drive and practice.

The movie also has the Maywood problem of obsessively looking backward. Attendance at Proviso East hoops games is down, a detail that the movie mentions but doesn't discuss.

Question: Proviso East graduates have been on the team that won the NBA championship for three straight years (Michael Finley, 2007, San Antonio; Glenn “Doc” Rivers, 2008, Boston; Brown, 2009, LA), if Proviso East is so imbued with pride, why is attendance down at hoops games?

The movie would be more effective if it tackled Maywood's problems and Proviso East's problems directly. The community has a crime problem. Students at Proviso East do poorly on standardized tests.

Without explaining the problems the community and the school face, the movie treats its audience as children that need to be shielded from the truth. No amount of extolling the Golden Age of Maywood will bring those circumstances back. Communities who have a positive future take stock of their situation and make a decision to make the best decisions going forward. Maywood obsessively looks backward and tries to reclaim the past. This has caused the community to slip backward consistently since about the time the Pirates won their first state hoops championship (1969).

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  • The soundtrack was quite good.

    By Blogger Carl Nyberg, at 12:39 PM, August 16, 2009  

  • Very interesting blog you wrote there, Carl. You are right that the documentary should be telling more truth about today's Proviso East basketball program.

    You should definitely send a letter to the director who filmed "Pirate Pride." Also, you should spread the word to everyone, including the people at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

    Nice job, Carl!

    By Anonymous Jeremy, at 11:18 PM, August 16, 2009  

  • Interesting comments re looking back to the past.....Since i was born here and my family has lived here for a long time we remember these great times and have not yet fully mourned the loss of things...maybe it is time to let go no matter how painful...


    Proviso in 1969 was a majority white high school undergoing white flight / a radical change that was completed in 1973 (for good or bad)


    By Blogger lennelgrace, at 10:01 AM, August 17, 2009  

  • As the director of Pirate Pride, I first and foremost appreciate the time that you took to watch and critic our documentary.

    As you know, I took some of your comments as contructive critism and totally disregarded others.

    I believe that the extreme negatives of Maywood have been well reported by the mainstream media as well as yourself. So I am not interested in belaboring that point.

    The racial delineantion of Maywood during the 1960s can definitely be emphasized in Pirate Pride. It would make the story more effective. I am sure that our racially diverse school experienced far more trauma than non-diverse schools. Point well taken!

    Carl, a lot of kids across America have plenty of drive, talent, supportive schools and communities, but they do not make it to the heights of their professions like some of the basketball players from Proviso East. Some of these kids even have a ton of cash (for camps, personal trainers, etc.) thrown at them.

    There are several changes that David and I want to incorporate in Pirate Pride. We need MONEY for additional shooting and editing!
    It would also be nice to license NBA footage of the 9 players who made it to the league.

    Carl, do you have any fund raising experience? I am sure that you have a few wealthy friends that you can steer in our direction.
    We'll make them proud and even provide a return on their investments. Please help where you can!!!

    Again, thank you for your time and effort.

    Derek Grace

    By Anonymous Derek Grace, at 3:17 PM, August 17, 2009  

  • I tend to agree with Nyberg's observations. The film was, indeed repetitive, and much too provincial - of keen interest only to a limited demograph. It could've benfited from a good job of editing to weed out the redundant flashbacks focusing on the same insignifcant people reminsicing over and over again about their personal experiences which were not that interesting. {Too much GAR Rivers and not enough Ricky Wilson. And how many times do we need to hear the rambling of a cheer leader?)

    In order to enhance its national appeal, a more compelling picture of this local athletic phenomenon needed to be presented, focusing on the social and historical aspects of it in relation to the country at large. As it is, this effort emerges as simply a Proviso East athletic journal.

    I attribute this to its young film makers being of a generation which seems to have a problem with multi-tasking. LOL

    Connie Bradley, a black graduate of the Proviso Township high school class of 1951.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:30 AM, August 18, 2009  

  • Really said:
    Nice to have you back with your well written comments.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:23 PM, August 22, 2009  

  • I agree with Lennel about the White flight but we did not all leave. My "white" daughters graduated from Proviso in 1982, 85 and 88. I love high school sports but we must all care more about the academics at Proviso East. As many wags have said, only one out of a thousand who play high school basketball, or any other high school sport, will ever earn any professioal money. On Proviso!! Gary Woll

    By Anonymous Gary Woll, at 10:33 PM, August 23, 2009  

  • was really good the soundtrack

    By Anonymous Charles, at 5:04 AM, August 24, 2009  

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