Change The World, Create Something!
(Art used courtesy of http://elevatethemovie.com)
By Shannon J. Effinger
Anne Buford makes her directorial debut with the film Elevate, a story that chronicles the lives of four Senegalese teens (Assane, Dethie, Byago and Aziz) with dreams of not only becoming NBA basketball stars, but more importantly, to improve the quality of life for those closest to them. On the surface, all of these men would appear to be any recruiter’s dream come true—they are all nearly seven feet tall with the exception of Byago who stands at 6’ 3”. And just like their native Wolof language, which contains a mixture of both Arabic and French, these men have many different layers to them. And thankfully, Buford’s camera work doesn’t interfere and allows them to share their unique stories—in their own words.
Buford’s relationship with these young men began over six years ago when her brother, RC Buford (GM of the San Antonio Spurs) introduced her to NBA executive and Senegal native Amadou Gallo Fall. During their meeting, she soon discovered that Fall created a program in Senegal called the SEEDS Academy, where aspiring young basketball players would not only have a place to live and study, but they can also train all year round. These four teens were selected from the academy to attend prep schools in the US and that’s where the real story begins. They face quite a culture shock when they arrive at their respective schools—ignorance of the African culture, feeling alienated (being West African Muslims at a Catholic school, for example), added pressure and expectations from their coaches and teachers (some of whom come across as condescending) and just adapting to this new life all on their own.
Elevate was an official selection of the 2011 SXSW Film Festival. To find out more on Elevate and when it will be showing near you, visit http://elevatethemovie.com/.