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"Ballin' at the Graveyard" 

Crimes of the heart

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.


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