Like most great sports documentaries “Giants of Africa” isn’t about really about the game. Sure much of the film happens on the basketball court but this isn’t about learning to do layups or a final, climatic game, it’s about universal themes of teamwork, survival and empowerment.
Front and centre in Hubert Davis’ documentary is Masai Ujiri, the charismatic Toronto Raptors general manager who founded the Giants of Africa, a program that educates and enriches the lives of underprivileged African youth through basketball.
The Zaria, Nigeria born former player uses basketball to inspire and to bring hope to places where it is often in short supply. In Nigeria he passionately lectures the players about the country and their need to help chance their culture.
“You have to grow up and you have to be better,” he says. “You have to put it in your heart that you have to be a good person and you have to be better. You have to make a difference in this country. We all have to make a difference.
“Go out and make a difference in your life. Make a difference in other people’s lives.”
It’s a pep speech with huge ramifications. Ujiri knows the power of words and uses them to inspire on and off the court.
Davis also gives voice to the players. Through them we learn their personal histories, stories of poverty, abuse and civil war, and gain context as to how the Giants of Africa program can help change their lives.
“Giants of Africa” is a moving, inspirational documentary about change, about how dreams can improve lives and maybe even countries. “In those kids I see myself,” says Ujiri, “and I think this is a little window of opportunity to help them find themselves.”