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I Can Feel the City Breathin: Talking “Doin It In the Park” With Bobbito Garcia

Posted by Nathan S. on 05/09/13 | Filed under Movies
The real heart of New York City can't be found in Times Square, or Madison Square Garden, or on top of the Empire State Building. No, if you trace the heartbeat of the city to its source you'll find yourself on blacktop, staring up at a hoop, surrounded by the sounds of basketballs pounding off the pavement. It will be the sound of New York.

Pick-up basketball in New York City is more than a game, it's a culture, a culture that until Bobbito Garcia and his partner Kevin Couliau set out to make Doin It In The Park had never really been documented. "No one's ever done a film about pick up basketball in New York," said Garcia when we spoke. "It's never been documented. That's one of the reasons Kevin and I decided to make the film, to create an honest and pure portrait for not just New Yorkers, but for the world."

As the NBA's televised reach has increased basketball has become a truly global sport, pick-up basketball has become a truly global culture. Kids from Sao Paulo to Moscow to Lagos hit their neighborhood courts everyday, but all roads still lead back to New York City. "Because of the history everyone wants to play at Rucker. And even if they don't play they just want to take a picture and say 'I was here.'"

Until "Doin It In the Park" though, most of what's been shown to the world about New York City's pick-up culture has showcased the game's relatively small, elite circle. "When brands use the playground to sell their product they package highlights, which are amazing to watch. But what I wanted to do is go one level deeper and talk about the culture and community that exists on the courts."

So while "Doin It In The Park" does showcase some of the best talent in NYC, and by extension the world, Garcia and Couliau's also made it their mission to tell the story of the thousands of people whose lives revolve around the hardtop, but who may never play in a Rucker tournament. "When you're 4-years-old and you want to play with your dad, when you're 7 and want to shoot around on a Saturday, the court is there for you. We have interviewees in the film who are hearing impaired, and they love basketball just as much as Lebron James."

It's that commitment to the community that really sets "Doin It In the Park" apart. A documentary about New York City pick-up basketball that only focused on And 1 players would be like a documentary about hip-hop that only focused on Jay-Z and Kanye. Given his background as a legendary DJ, it should be no surprise that Garcia also extended that commitment to the documentary's soundtrack. Hip-hop legends like The Roots and Jurassic 5 are a part of the film's soundtrack, so are artists like legendary Latin jazz played Eddie Palmieri.

"What people assume is pick-up basketball [equals] hip-hop. But as a DJ, my tastes are a lot deeper and wider than that. We have a scene where there's a Puerto Rican drummer playing an Afro-Beat, rumba rhythm. You're not going to find that in many films." Doin It In The Park doesn't just look like New York City, it sounds like New York City.

Garcia told me that he set out to make the, "Style Wars of pick-up basketball," a movie that will not only captures a living culture in the moment, but also lays that culture's roots visible for present and future generations to see. "Doin It In The Park" is about pick-up, but it's also about much more. It's about a city, a culture, and most importantly, the real people who live and die everyday with the sounds of the court as the soundtrack of their life.

For more about the film, visit DoinItInThePark.com, check out Tugg.com for screenings in your city, and see below for the trailer and to stream and purchase the film. Thank you to Bobbito Garcia for taking the time to speak to me. In many ways this film is just the latest example of the work he's been doing for decades to bring NYC street culture, including hip-hop, to the world.

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See Also:  Rap Nerdery: The Return of the Stretch & Bobbito Show


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