'Moonlight' Scribe Tarell Alvin McCraney Tackles NBA Exploitation Of Black Athletes In Netflix Film 'High Flying Bird'
Written by Oscar winner Tarell Alvin McCraney (Best Screenplay, Moonlight) and directed by Steven Soderbergh (entirely on the iPhone) — Netflix’s High Flying Bird is a film about the business of professional basketball, but it’s also a film about race. Exploring themes and elements from Professor Harry Edwards’ 1969 text, The Revolt of the Black Athlete— High Flying Bird follows Ray Burke (André Holland)—a high powered New York sports agent desperately trying to hold on to his newest client, rookie Erick Scott (Melvin Gregg), the NBA’s number one draft pick. A would-be New York Knicks player, Erick’s career and life have come to a standstill due to a 6-month league lockout. That's what happens when the the uber-rich teams' owners and the Players Association, led by Myra (Sonja Sohn), can't come to an agreement.
Major names like Steph Curry and LeBron James (in the real world and in this drama) are virtually unaffected by lockouts—which delay income and training. However, for newcomers like Erick who weren't even being paid at the college level —financial and mental burdens are a very real thing.
Disgusted by the antics of the higher-ups in the organization, Ray and his assistant Sam (Zazie Beetz) conceive of a scheme that will put the game back into the players' hands and force the owners to their knees.
Using McCraney’s rich writing and Soderbergh’s lens to shine a light on the history of racial oppression within sports, High Flying Bird illustrates how the love of the game and the sport has often been twisted and used to exploit Black bodies and Black humanity.
Ahead of the film’s debut on Netflix, Shadow and Act sat down to speak with McCraney about the history of this story and why he added his words to the legacy of Black athletic rebellion.
Continue reading at Shadow and Act.