The sad state of the US prison and criminal justice system is rarely a topic that can inspire. 'Q Ball', the 2018 documentary film by Michael Tolajian, however, shows that from prison, dreams are still alive for many.
Set in San Quentin State Prison, across the San Franciso Bay from downtown, Q Ball delves into the lives of inmates on the prison's basketball team and takes us through some typical days in the lives of inmates who certainly need a reason for hope. The documentary highlights games against visiting teams from outside the prison, inmates engaged in worship and conversation, and provides several compelling interviews.
In particular, Q Ball highlights two individuals in the documentary. You'll see excellent talent from many on the team, but Harry Smith stands out amongst his peers. Smith is a former NBA prospect who shares his dream to still make it to the league one day. The other primary focus is on Rafael Cuevas. Cuevas is the head coach of the team, and employs coaching methods that are not always fully embraced by the players. It makes for some interesting moments in the film.
Q Ball doesn't spend much time addressing questions about violence in prison (we see some episodes of rough behavior in the film) or to what extent the basketball program is having a long-term, positive effect on the players. There's no doubt that the team has been noticed outside the gates. Golden State Warrior fans will be interested to know that the Warriors support the program, and the team has representatives who regularly visit the prison games.
Any program that helps to motivate prisoners away from violence, give them hope, or simply break up the monotony, is surely a good thing. It also provides a valuable window into the lives of these men for all of us – a reminder that we're all human, with mistakes and dreams alike.
Take a sneak peak at the Q Ball Special Screening below. You can watch the Q Ball documentary on FuboTV.