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High Flying Bird

“We were just human beings who saw a need to bring attention to the inequality in our country”

[Tommie Smith]

With Soderbergh comes the anticipation and the disappointment. Tackling the script of Oscar winner Tarell Alvin McCraney (who wrote Moonlight and seemingly little else since then), Soderbergh returns to his lazy filming using the iPhone (Unsane) and still-shots taken from his awkward vantage points. Whatever can be said about the filming, it is reminiscent of Soderbergh before Traffic, still trying with reckless abandonment to make relevant films without a working creative engine.

That said, the script had its moments. With the show Ballers moving into its fifth season with Dwayne Johnson going after the great white whale that is the NCAA. So, too, in High Flying Bird, we have a parallel struggle against the forces that be in the NBA and the commodification of athletes. Taken from them their image, the film seeks to find an alternative path for young black athletes in an effort to reclaim their name from what the film constantly refers to as “old white men.” As the lockout rolls on, the Players Association and the team owners seem unable to bridge the divide that becomes a  disproportionate burden on some of the players. That is until they find a way to remind the owners that their worth and image can be redeemed and marketed with a simple click of a mouse.

For what it’s worth, the film is short and tackles an immensely important topic of the value of an athlete and the “enslavement” of their image towards corporate greed. With the advent of the Colin Kaepernick controversy, questions of ownership and the expectation of compliance through systematic behavior modification and monetary penalties is rich with plenty of nuance for this movie to be extended into a larger project.

RATING: C

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