Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Sun, Aug. 14

Sydney Freeland to direct Native American basketball film 'Rez Ball'

Native American Director Sydney Freeland will direct 'Rez Ball' for Netflix. (Photo/Netflix)

Native American Director Sydney Freeland will direct 'Rez Ball' for Netflix. (Photo/Netflix)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.. — Native American director Sydney Freeland, ('Reservation Dogs', Drunktown's Finest) will direct the coming-of-age drama about Native American basketball, 'Rez Ball,' produced by Wise Entertainment, LeBron James and Maverick Carter's The Spotlight Co. for Netflix.

Both Freeland and Sterlin Harjo ('Reservation Dogs') will screenwrite.

According to a Netflix press release, the film is inspired by Michael Powell's nonfiction sports novel, 'Canyon Dreams,' as well as The New York Times article that preceded it.

"'Rez Ball' explores the raw and exhilarating world of 'reservation basketball' with its unique, lightening-quick pace that is rumored to have influenced top NBA teams and coaches throughout the years," Netflix said.

In a December 2019 review of 'Canyon Dreams,' in the Navajo-Hopi Observer, Powell acknowledged he didn't need to tell Navajo students about the realities of life on the reservation or the struggles they faced in deciding their futures — whether to stay on the reservation or leave.

But he did delve into the 2017-2018 basketball season and explored why Chinle, a town of about 4,500, packs the Wildcat Den full of fans and family, who sometimes travel vast distances across the reservation to watch the games. The stadium can seat 6,400 people with standing room for another 1,000.

Freeland said she is beyond excited to be working with Netflix, Wise Entertainment and The Springhill Co. to bring the story to life.

"Basketball on the Rez is like high school football in West Texas," she said. "It has a fanatical following that few sports can rival."

Freeland said she was excited to be working with Sterlin Harjo on the project.

"He has brought so much insight, humor and heart to this story," she said. "This is a story that is commonplace on Indian reservations all over the U.S., but most people aren't aware it exists."

Freeland explained she wants to bring people into their world.

"To tell a story about the people and places we know, and what better way to do that than through a sports movie?" she asked. "We want to tell a story that is authentic to the place and people, told from the inside-out. We are so excited with the team we've assembled and can't wait to bring this to the screen."

Casting call for Native American actors:

Midthunder Casting put out a call for Navajo basketball players, male and female, ages 18-early 20s to portray high schoolers in the film 'Rez Ball.'

All types, shapes and sizes. No acting experience necessary. Those interested can email the following information to

Name, height, phone number, age (if under 18), email address, location (city, reservation or community), optional (tribal affiliation or Clan), photos (headshot or cell phone photos). In the subject line, write first and last name - Rez Ball Player.

Rate is approximately 1K per day or 3.5K per week.

COVID-19 Safety: All CDC guidelines and precautions will be followed.

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