Anne Buford talks about basketball film 'Elevate'

Fri, Oct 21

Filmmaker Anne Buford grew up around athletics. Serious athletics. Her older brother is RC Buford -- who played college basketball, went on to coach at the University of Kansas (while Anne was there as a student), and now is the title-winning general manager of the San Antonio Spurs.

So it's no wonder the younger Buford has taken her love of sports to cinema, even likening a film set to a basketball team. The producer is like the GM, she said. The actors? They're the players.

And the director?

"The director is essentially the head coach," Buford said by phone Thursday.

Now Buford is making her coaching debut -- or at least bringing it to audiences -- as the Kansan-turned-New Yorker recently completed the basketball-themed documentary "Elevate," about four West African hoops hopefuls who move from the SEEDS Academy in Senegal to U.S. prep schools.

After a run on the festival circuit (including South by Southwest), "Elevate" is set to show in New York City on Friday, heads to Los Angeles (among other places) on Nov. 4, and will open in more "basketball cities" the following week.

The thematic similarities to the storied "Hoop Dreams" are there, of course, but Buford notes the many differences between Steve James' intense, probing look at budding American basketball stars and this shorter, lighter ("I'm an optimistic person," Buford said) look at foreign-born kids trying to make a new life through sports.

The film took about six years to complete, according to Buford, whose labyrinthine journey into filmmaking included working for Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour in the early 1990s -- as everything from a personal assistant to communications director -- and getting advice from Oscar-winning director Robert Benton ("Kramer vs. Kramer") to "just go do a film" instead of returning to school.

She did it. And of course, it was thanks to her entire team -- including a certain NBA front office man and "Elevate" executive producer.

"My executive producer and GM were very helpful," she said.