Kavon Martez Rayford (Photo by Ulrich Fonou)
Kavon Martez Rayford (Photo by Ulrich Fonou)

The origin of the game 33 incites debate among generations of basketball aficionados living in the D.C. metropolitan area. Some acknowledge the inmates of Lorton Reformatory as its pioneers, while others credit basketball legend Patrick Ewing. formerly number 33 of the Georgetown Hoyas, as the primary influencer.

Within a matter of weeks, the conversation about this timeless blacktop game will continue with a screening of “33” at the D.C. Independent Film Festival. This short documentary takes viewers back in time and explores the appeal of the childhood classic that often brought young people together on the court.

“So many of us had that last game and never knew that we wouldn’t be on the court playing 33 again.” “33” co-director Kavon Martez Rayford told WI Bridge as he reminisced about one of his favorite childhood games. The rules were simple, an unlimited number of people attempt to outscore one another and be the first to reach 33 points on a half-court.

“When I looked out the balcony behind my house. I would be excited and yell to my friends — Ralph. Kenny. Kendrick, Stump and others — that I would come out to play. That’s how I broke down the film,” added Rayford. a fourth-generation Washingtonian hailing from Southwest.

The much-anticipated screening of “33.” scheduled for March 10 at the Carnegie Institute for Science in Northwest, follows similar “33” events at the Eaton on 12th and K Streets in Northwest, Village Cafe at Union Market in Northeast. and the Annapolis Film Festival.

It also precedes another project in the works, what Rayford calls a period piece centered on a Jewish youngster who learns about indigenous District history and culture upon his visit to the nation’s capital.

In the short documentary “33.” Rayford stays true to his goal of connecting audiences to authentic D.C. life. He compiles a series of color and black & white stills showing young people, in street clothes or basketball gear, on the offense and defense during impromptu scrimmages that break out on the blacktops throughout the year. As audience members immerse themselves in a diverse photo montage that highlights consistency in play during seasonal changes. they get to hear Rayford reflect on the game’s cultural impact on those, like himself, who came of age in the District before mass displacement.

Rayford. in his lifelong love affair with basketball, released the “33′ documentary in collaboration with David Ross and Lloyd Foster after Foster. enamored with Rayford’s custom-designed “33” hoodie. encouraged him to embark on the project.

In 2018. less than two years after that conversation, hundreds of people of various ages converged on Union Market for what would be an event that elicited a bevy of emotions, particularly those of excitement and surprise.

“People expect the film to be longer. They said they wanted to see so much more.” said Rayford. 28.”When you’re making anything like a short film, you have to take your creativity to the next level.” he continued. “You have to let people use their imagination about the history of 33. The conversation leaves you thinking for hours and years to come. We set this up as a story that continues to be told.”

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Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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