High Flying Bird Puts the NBA on Blast
Steven Soderbergh is one of the most fascinating filmmakers working today. He’s not just interested in telling stories; he wants to fully explore the medium, pushback against conventions, and break new ground. In the past year, he released a feature shot on an iPhone (Unsane) and gave viewers choose-your-own-adventure-style control of a TV series through an app (Mosiac). No matter the medium, Soderbergh’s style remains innovative, incisive, and above all else, entertaining.
I still haven’t wrapped my mind around my favourite filmmakers dropping new content onto streaming services, seemingly out of nowhere. In Soderbergh’s case, it’s because he keeps shooting movies on an iPhone. As if a new Soderbergh release isn’t exciting enough, his new Netflix feature, High Flying Bird, looks extra special. The film mixes three of my favourite things: an indie filmmaker, basketball, and André Holland. Check out the trailer:
There’s something about the sport of basketball that makes it ripe for the big screen treatment. Maybe it’s because basketball is the most accessible of North America’s four major sports. Players aren’t hidden behind masks and buried under layers of bulky equipment like in football and hockey. And Baseball may be America’s pastime, but organizing a leisurely game is as labour-intensive as planning a bar mitzvah.
Everyone has access to a ball and a hoop, so the game and its players feel more relatable. It’s why everything from Hoosiers and He Got Game to White Men Can’t Jump and Space Jam resonate to this day. You can be sure that Soderbergh wouldn’t dive into this well-worn genre unless he found some compelling themes worth exploring.
The NBA is a billion-dollar industry, and High Flying Bird examines the dicey economics behind professional sports associations, players, and sponsors as well as the power imbalance between a league and its players. If that’s not intriguing enough, Moonlight’s writer, Tarell Alvin McCraney, penned the script. Zazie Beetz, Zachary Quinto, Kyle MacLachlan, and Bill Duke star in the film along with NBA players Reggie Jackson, Karl-Anthony Towns and Donovan Mitchell.
Here’s High Flying Bird’s official synopsis:
In the midst of a pro basketball lockout, sports agent Ray Burke (André Holland) finds himself caught in the face-off between the league and the players. His career is on the line, but Ray is playing for higher stakes. With only 72 hours to pull off a daring plan, he outmaneuvers all the power-players as he uncovers a loophole that could change the game forever. The outcome raises questions of who owns the game – and who ought to.
High Flying Bird will debut Friday, February 8th exclusively on Netflix.