Documentary Chronicling NBA Star Serge Ibaka’s Return Home Debuts on Grantland March 23; ESPN Television Premiere on April 17
Grantland Features’ first full-length documentary, Son of the Congo, chronicling Oklahoma City Thunder star Serge Ibaka’s improbable journey from his native Congo and return home as a top echelon NBA player, has been selected to premiere at South By Southwest (SXSW) Film on March 14. The Grantland documentary film follows Ibaka’s return home to war-stricken Congo to recount the poignant story of his childhood and confront the stark reality faced by a new generation of Congolese youth. Not content to settle for photo ops, Ibaka revisits the neighborhoods where he once slept in empty lots and practiced basketball without shoes. With grace and generosity, Ibaka receives and supports an endless stream of friends and strangers who hope he can change their lives through his unshakeable faith that a better future is only possible if you never stop trying.
“I feel blessed to have the opportunity to show where I come from, my roots, and to be able to tell my story in a natural way,” said Serge Ibaka. “Having the film premiere at SXSW is very exciting, and this wouldn’t have been possible without the commitment from Grantland and ESPN, director Adam Hootnick and Humble. Their passion and interest in telling my story in a genuine way so that I might be able to inspire someone with this film is my ultimate goal.”
Following its SXSW premiere, Son of the Congo will debut on Grantland in five parts from March 23-27. Additionally, the film will air April 17 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
“We always wanted Grantland to evolve into a multi-media destination that took big swings and worked with as many talented people as possible, but I can’t remember thinking that we’d ever premiere a feature at South By Southwest,” said Grantland editor-in-chief Bill Simmons. “It’s been a surreal experience and we are honored to present such a poignant documentary.”
Son of the Congo is directed by award-winning filmmaker, Adam Hootnick, and produced in conjunction with the production company, Humble. In addition to Son of the Congo, Hootnick has directed acclaimed documentaries for ESPN’s “30 for 30 Shorts” (Judging Jewell) and won the Slamdance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize for Unsettled.
“To be in Congo with Serge Ibaka is to see the embodiment of grace, generosity, and never forgetting where you come from, and it’s hard to believe he’s only 24 years old,” said Adam Hootnick. “While Serge was born with incredible physical gifts, what most sets him apart is his faith that we all have the capacity to change our world, and the obligation to help others to change theirs. I’m so lucky that Grantland saw the potential of Serge’s story and that Serge was willing to let us in — and I hope that anyone who sees Son of the Congo will feel the same.”
Since its launch in 2011 by Bill Simmons and ESPN, Grantland has been recognized for its entertaining and original content from both established and up-and-coming writers like Wesley Morris, Bill Barnwell, Zach Lowe, Katie Baker and Rembert Browne. Not limited to just creating short and long-form written work, Grantland is an industry leader in podcasts, having launched two award-winning networks to join Bill Simmons’ trailblazing ‘The BS Report.’ A modern, multimedia brand, Grantland is also the home for signature video projects ranging from the Emmy Award winning “30 for 30 Shorts,” the popular “Bill and Jalen” NBA series, “Grantland Features” film series and a one-hour primetime television show, “The Grantland Basketball Hour.”