Navajo director Sydney Freeland to helm Native American basketball drama ‘Rez Ball’

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Director Sydney Freeland attends the Day One Press Conference during day 1 of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival at Egyptian Theatre on January 19, 2017 in Park City, Utah. [Sundance Film Festival photo]

Navajo director Sydney Freeland (“Drunktown’s Finest”) is helming the Native American basketball drama “Rez Ball.”

Fresh off his starring role in the cinematic sequel “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” LeBron James is producing the project for Netflix, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The film “follows the Chuska Warriors, a Native American high school basketball team from Chuska, New Mexico, that must band together after losing their star player if they want to keep their quest for a state championship alive. It’s an all-American underdog story about Navajo kids and coaches told from the inside-out.”

Freeland (TV’s “Rutherford Falls,” “Fear the Walking Dead,” “Grey’s Anatomy”) co-wrote the script with Oklahoma filmmaker Sterlin Harjo, who is Seminole and Muscogee.

Freeland recently directed episodes of FX on Hulu’s acclaimed Native American coming-of-age comedy series “Reservation Dogs,” which Harjo (“Barking Water,” “Four Sheets to the Wind”) created with Oscar-winning New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi (“What We Do in the Shadows,” “Jojo Rabbit,” “Thor: Ragnarok”), who is of Maori ancestry.

The “Rez Ball” script is based on Michael Powell’s sports novel “Canyon Dreams” and his New York Times articles, which  delve into the world of “reservation basketball.”

“Basketball on the Rez is like high school football in West Texas. It has a fanatical following that few sports can rival,” Freeland said, per The Hollywood Reporter. “This is a story that’s commonplace on Indian reservations all over the US, but most people aren’t even aware it exists. What we want to do is bring people into our world, to tell a story about the people and places we know, and what better way to do that than through a sports movie?”

Production will take place on location in New Mexico, including filming on reservations with the permission and support of the local sovereign tribal nations.

Maverick Carter will produce with James under their SpringHill Company shingle, along with Wise Entertainment Maurício and Katie Mota of the popular Hulu teen drama series “East Los High.” Spencer Beighley and Jamal Henderson are executive producers for SpringHill.



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