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Giants of Africa: Basketball doc offers message of hope, but little else

A basketball youth program set up in Africa by Raptors president Masai Ujiri.

2 out of 4 stars

Title
Giants of Africa
Directed by
Hubert Davis
Starring
Masai Ujiri
Genre
Documentary
Classification
G
Country
Canada
Language
English/Swahili
Year
2016

The polished documentary Giants of Africa takes its name from a program created by Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri, a Nigerian native who uses basketball as motivational tool for African youth. The Canadian documentarian Hubert Davis chronicles Ujiri's trip to the continent for a series of basketball camps. Ujiri's presence alone is inspirational – he's the first (and only) African-born head of a major North American league sports franchise – and his message to the earnest hoopsters extends beyond the hardwood: Change your family, change your community, change your country – "be better." The encouragement is laudable, but a film needs to be more than a pep talk. Unlike the 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams, we get little context of the players' lives outside the gyms. And are women allowed to play basketball in Africa? Are they allowed to dream big? All we see are guys, and we don't get to know any of them too well. The film says all it has to say in the first 30 minutes. After that, we're just watching the same play run over and over again.

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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