A short film about a high-school basketball team – which was shot at Classical Magnet School in Hartford and features several of that school’s basketball players – can be seen online starting at midnight Tuesday on Vimeo.
“On the Whistle” is directed by TJ Noel-Sullivan of Hartford, who used to play basketball at Classical Magnet. Noel-Sullivan just graduated from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in film and media studies. “On the Whistle” was his thesis film.
The 20-minute movie tells the story of Luke, who just moved from Granby to Hartford, where his mother is the new superintendent of schools. Luke is the only white player trying out for the school’s basketball team, whose coach butts heads with Luke.
Noel-Sullivan, who has been self-isolating at the family home in Hartford since graduating, said one reason he made the film was to emphasize the importance of white students having teachers of color.
“There is a very important conversation going on in the state and the nation about why teachers of color are so important for students of color. That is so true. But I want to expand the conversation to why white students also should have teachers of color,” Noel-Sullivan said.
“If you get to the age of 17 and never had an authority figure of color telling you no, being an obstacle to what you want, that is where we see issues of white privilege and white entitlement come in.”
That theme is subtle and unspoken in the film, which focuses on Luke’s growth as a player and a person.
“On the Whistle” stars Danny Johnson as the coach and Aiden Peluso as the teen. Noel-Sullivan said Johnson’s agreement to work on the film, which came early on the production process, helped him get Classical Magnet ballplayers to agree to be in the film.
“Danny was in ‘Luke Cage.’ A lot of them saw that show and liked it. They thought that was great, being in a movie with an actor they saw on TV,” he said.
Most of the players in the film are or were students at Classical Magnet. Ballplayers were portrayed by Kai Nugent, Shawn Blackwood, Tim Flynn, Trevon Jengelly, Kristion Gonzalez, Luis Molina, Josiah Perez-Henry, Zain Husseini, Davion Murray, Malachai McPherson, Anthony Lucre, Tyler Baboolal, Kywane Ellis, Shangler Pinthiere, Julian Cicero, Owen Marcelus, Ian Oller, Rogelio Tejada, Marcus Lebby and Eddie Carter.
Other Hartford-area filmmakers participated in the making of the movie, including Erik Bloomquist, who produced, Pedro Bermudez and Joe Young.
To see the film, visit vimeo.com/411085789.