Film about teens at Masai Ujiri’s basketball camps in Africa feels shallow
GIANTS OF AFRICA (Hubert Davis). 83 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (April 7). See listing. Rating: NN
Teens who escaped domestic violence, poverty and even Boko Haram are among the hundreds lucky enough to be invited to one of Masai Ujiri’s basketball camps in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Rwanda.
But their testimonies can’t help this philanthropic documentary find its emotional beats. Sound bites from guys like Sodiq, who recalls friends being killed by Boko Haram, feel like a small matter of business in what comes across as a promotional campaign for Ujiri’s noble charity.
Ujiri is the Toronto Raptors’ GM, and the Giants of Africa org is his way to give back to his home, inspiring young men with basketball in the same way that Oliver Johnson, an American coach working in Nigeria, guided Ujiri to success.
The kids get accommodation, gear sponsored by Nike, training and lessons in how to be leaders. Coaches fill us in on objectives, methods and successes, but few speak intimately about their charges or themselves.
Hubert Davis’s doc fills out the contours of this outreach program and boasts plenty of eye-catching slow-mo action on the court. It rarely reaches out beyond the camps to dig deeper into the communities they are helping.