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Life Without Basketball

Life Without Basketball takes us inside the life of Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir. As a record-breaking high school star and college athlete, her life as a basketball player had structure and a clear forward path. Bilqis was raised to follow the Quran and has been wearing hijab since the age of fourteen. She extends this practice onto the court as well, covering arms and legs underneath her uniform and wearing a tightly wrapped headscarf. When she began her college career in 2009 she became the first NCAA Division I athlete to do so. Her story attracted the attention of national media and later, the White House.

Having just come off the best year of her college career at Indiana State, Bilqis began pursuing her goal to play professionally. At this point she was informed that FIBA (the international governing body for the sport) has a rule banning headscarves from the court. FIBA initially explains the rule as a measure to keep the game religiously neutral, and then later cites false safety concerns. The news comes as a shock. Covering is an essential part of her faith and the rule puts her hoop dreams just out of grasp.

As Bilqis awaits an official decision from FIBA due in August of 2016, she has temporarily transitioned out of the world of a professional athlete. We watch as she focuses her abilities on training the next generation of Muslim girls at the first of its kind athletic program at an Islamic school. The film explores the complex world of being Muslim in America, where family tradition and popular perception are often at odds. We examine layers of identity through her series of choices moving forward and discover both strength and challenges in life outside of the sport.

About The Production Team

Tim O’Donnell – Director, Producer, Editor, Writer

Tim O’Donnell is an Emmy-nominated and award winning documentary filmmaker. His work has appeared on ESPN, ABC, PBS, the Sundance Film Festival and events around the world. His films have garnished the Audience Award at the Independent Film Festival of Boston, Jury Prizes at the Phoenix Film Festival and Woods Hole Film festival, and IndieWire’s Project of the Month.

Jon Mercer – Director, Producer, Editor, Writer

Jon is known for his ability to deconstruct a frame or narrative, finding it’s essential elements and drawing out the underlying emotion. Building drama, finding humor, clarifying reality – his collaborative approach draws out the best and sometimes undiscovered moments of the story. As an editor, compositor, and colorist, his commercial work has been broadcast nationally and helped expand viewership for a number of online platforms. His film work has screened internationally at festivals and can also be seen on PBS. Most notably, his editing for the documentary Calling My Children helped guide it to twelve festival wins and a Cine Golden Eagle Award.

Associated Members

We are grateful for the generous support of our sponsors:

Massachusetts Cultural Council
Lowel Cultural Council
Cabot Family Charitable Trust
Liberty Mutual Foundation
City of Boston Arts and Culture