Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ben Proudfoot’s, QUEEN OF BASKETBALL, unravels the story behind one of the all-time greatest women’s basketball players. Born to African American sharecropper parents, one of eleven children, living in poverty, in the Deep South, picking cotton with her siblings in order to keep her family afloat. She learns how to play basketball in high school and less than two years after graduating she carries a little known Mississippi college, Delta State, to three consecutive Women’s national basketball championships. She is picked to play on America’s Women’s Olympic basketball team to play in the first ever Olympic basketball tournament for women. She scores the first and second basket in women’s Olympic history. Soon after she becomes the first woman drafted (Utah Jazz) to play in the NBA. But have you ever heard of Lusia (Lucy) May Harris? Director Ben Proudfoot (Concerto is a Conversation) joins us to talk about one of the most accomplished and under-appreciated athletes who’s legacy off the court as a mother, daughter, wife and activist for equality rival her amazing athletic career as well as the happenstance that spurred Proudfoot into making this beguiling documentary.
World Premiere – 2021 Tribeca Film Festival
Director’s statement – When I first googled Lucy’s name at the suggestion of a colleague and learned how she was the first and only woman officially drafted to the NBA, how she had scored the first basket in women’s Olympic history, and how, as a young Black woman from a tiny town and college in the Mississippi Delta, she led her team to three national titles in the mid-70s — I wondered how I had never heard of her, and where she was today.And when I had the opportunity to visit with her at her home in Mississippi, it became clear that Lucy’s story was much more than just a basketball story, and Lucy far more than an elite athlete and pioneer, but a gifted and open storyteller with a clarion memory.We were having great trouble finding photos and especially film of Lucy playing (How strange, I thought!), until I walked into the Delta State University Archives to pick up a single reel of 16mm film, apparently the only remaining footage of the great Lucy Harris that they had. I was met by a friendly archivist. As I was signing the paperwork to borrow the film so we could scan it, I offhandedly prodded, as a documentary filmmaker often does, “So this is all you have of Lucy, huh? No other photos or tapes or anything?” The archivist cocked her head and her eyes showed confusion. “Uh, no, there’s more.” My pen stopped involuntarily, and I turned my head. “Oh?” I asked. “Yes,” she said, “there’s a lot more.”From dozens of uncatalogued bankers boxes in the back corner of the DSU vault, our team digitized nearly ten thousand film negatives and sixteen thousand feet of film, nothing short of a documentary treasure that had laid in waiting for nearly half a century. The visual legacy of Lusia “Lucy” Harris, as told from memory in her own voice, painted a portrait of one of the most important American athletes of the 20th century. – Ben Proudfoot
About the filmmaker – Ben Proudfoot is the Oscar® nominated creative force behind Breakwater Studios. Dedicated to the art of the short documentary, the studio’s work has been recognized by the Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca, Hot Docs, The Emmys, The Webbys, James Beard Foundation, and Telluride among others. His recent film A Concerto is a Conversation, co-directed by Kris Bowers and executive produced by Ava DuVernay, debuted at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, was released by The New York Times Op-Docs, and received an Academy Award® nomination for Best Documentary Short Subject. Proudfoot was named one of Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” for his leadership and innovation in the brand-funded documentary space. He hails from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and is a graduate of the University of Southern California. Proudfoot is an accomplished sleight-of-hand magician and has performed at The Magic Castle in Los Angeles. For more: breakwaterstudios.com