Produced in Upstate New York, the documentary "Ballin' at the Graveyard" posits that every city has one particular basketball court that everyone wants to play on, and functions as a hub in the subculture of urban pickup basketball. The film focuses on one such court, in Albany's Washington Park, known as the Graveyard. Director Basil Anastassiou, himself a frequent participant in the pick-up games that occur there, along with his co-director Paul Kentoffio, let us observe the players, allowing us to get a sense of the community that has been built up around the court. Some of these men have been playing ball there for decades. They demonstrate the complex rules of life at the Graveyard, including how to decide who's got next and the fine art of trash-talking.
We learn about some of the players' lives off the court, but not until a self-contained segment late in the film that presents all of their backstories one after another. It's an odd structural choice, and one that deprives the film of a central narrative thrust for the audience to latch onto. But "Ballin' at the Graveyard" works as an effective, even moving portrait of a location and the strong personalities who inhabit it.
The opening night showings of "Ballin' at the Graveyard" on Friday will include a Q&A with the directors as well as several players from the film.
Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer is renowned for creating stunning, photorealistic paintings at a time when photography didn't yet exist, and without any documented formal training. Directed by Teller -- of illusionist/comedy duo Penn & Teller fame -- the engrossing new documentary, "Tim's Vermeer," follows the efforts by Texas inventor and entrepreneur Tim Jenison to prove his theory that the artist utilized optical devices to achieve the seemingly impossible.
Jenison makes for a charismatic subject, and in his obsessive need to crack Vermeer's method, he demonstrates limitless ingenuity. Creating a device that adds mirrors to a traditional camera obscura, the inventor sets out to perfectly duplicate Vermeer's 1662 painting, "The Music Lesson," despite the fact that he has never painted in his life. Jenison begins by hand-building a life-size recreation of the room depicted in the painting, and things just get nuttier from there. The results of his experiment are a fascinating examination of art, technology, and what, if anything, separates the two. -- Adam Lubitow