The third project from Film London’s microwave scheme where a film is produced for a budget of £100,000 (with all the constraints that brings), ‘Freestyle’ is the sort of story that usually comes out of American indie cinema and is probably the first British basketball related movie.
The story of two black teenagers from ‘opposite sides of the tracks’, ‘Ondene’ (Lucy Konadu) from a well off family who have hopes of her going to Oxford University and ‘Leon’ (Arinze Kene) a basketball freestyler who lives on a council estate. Leon is secretly studying and has dreams of going to university but needs to win the Freestyle championships so he can use the prize money for his tuition fees.
The film is small scale, though thanks to director Kolton Lee and the producing team around him, achieves much beyond its budget. The story is simply told but wears its heart on its sleeve. I have to say that I didn’t immediately warm to the film but by the end was won over by its charm and the enthusiasm of the cast.
Talking of which, the cast had a mixture of non-actors (who would actually be able to freestyle for the film) and experienced actors. Both groups acquit themselves pretty well, in particular Rhoda M’Hango (‘Prunella’) a basketball enthusiast who went for the part of an extra but is great here as Ondene’s antagonist and Alfie Allen (‘Jez’) who has all the best lines and really carves out his role.
In the UK it has a multi-platform release (including selected independent cinemas) on the 26th February and is out on DVD a week later, and although aimed squarely at a teen audience has much to offer anyone looking for a different type of British film.