“I grew up in a basketball family, so since moving to New York, I often stop and watch the ball games going on in public,” says photographer and filmmaker India Sleem. “There’s something about them that seems fictional to me since it’s something I’ve mainly seen in films.”
We’re chatting to the Manchester-born, NYC-based artist the day before her latest work, The Game, a sunlight-saturated look at American basketball culture arrives via Black Dog Films, the production company who’ve just snapped up India as a director.
Having hopped off a train one balmy evening in Lower Manhattan, the photographer – who has worked for the likes of Nike and Gap, and had work featured everywhere from Dazed to Vogue – joined the crowd who’d congregated to watch the action taking place on one of the city’s numerous street-ball courts.
“I stayed for a while there and ended up chatting with the guy who run the league,” India recalls. “It seemed like a family affair with all generations sat with their fold out chairs – mothers of the players selling merchandise, children of the players eating ice cream, grandparents showing their support, and strangers surrounding the fences cheering the game on.”
Gifted with a keen eye for these things, India instinctively knew that she had to come back with her camera. The Game is a golden-hued love letter to an activity which the director says is “proof of what NY is about”, being a game that cultivates crowds from all walks of life, carving out a moment of hyper-kinetic calm in a city that somewhat famously never sleeps.
The city is as much of a star in this captivating short as the amateur athletes. Anyone who’s sat and watched Kids or Gimme the Loot will remember that few things on earth look as good in front of a camera as a basketball court during golden hour in Downtown New York.
A self-confessed “big red sky at night, shepherd’s delight person”, India was drawn to capturing the city and its favourite game during that most special of 60 minutes. The result is charming, sweetly nostalgic, and available to watch exclusively on It’s Nice That right now.