Writer and director Jamal Hill launches his latest film, a basketball drama set in Philly, with the help of some famous local friends.
Philly filmmaker Jamal Hill set his newest movie, Brotherly Love, at Overbrook High School.
Brotherly Love isn’t the first film from Philly screenwriter/director Jamal Hill, whose independently produced 2006 breakout Money, Power, Respect—which he and his mother funded—made him the city’s filmmaker-to-watch and put him on the radar of some of Philly’s local luminaries. It is, however, the first to truly capitalize on those relationships, with Overbrook pal Will Smith helping with promotion and Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit set to produce. Brotherly Love, which opens late summer or early fall, deals in always-relevant urban themes like basketball stardom and the question of whether one’s dreams are worth the difficulties they can cause.
You’ve written stories about lust, crime, and high school basketball. What’s the trajectory?
I like telling stories about young people, things they go through, and trials they come into. You become who you are between 16 and 20. That’s your coming-of-age moment.
Why has basketball become such a fertile ground?
Basketball is the perfect vehicle to tell a story about ambition. In the ghetto, your finite focus is to move forward. So when you catch your dreams, what do you do next?
How did the movie get to Queen Latifah?
I’d been working with Will Smith’s production company [Overbrook Entertainment] for two years. Overbrook and Flavor Unit are like brother and sister; both stemmed from hip-hop. The Queen, she snapped it up.
How did you and Will hook up in the first place?
I shot my first two films and was dead broke, sleeping on my buddy’s couch, when I got a call from my now-manager, Charlie Mack, who’s tight with Will. Instead of talking for 20 minutes, we rapped for three hours. On the spot, he phoned Will, and the next day, I’m in Manhattan with Smith while he’s filming I Am Legend. It’s like a dream.
Are you doing any local screenings?
We plan on doing premieres at the Roxy Theater and the Suzanne Roberts Theatre since the Philadelphia Film Society and the Greater Philadelphia Film Office showed the movie so much love. [We also want to do] an orange carpet premiere at Overbrook High with the cast.
What’s different about filming in your city?
People aren’t jaded here like in LA and NYC. The people and companies still welcome the inconvenience a production creates. Here, shooting at Overbrook High was an amazing backdrop: The classic architecture and personality made it a character in the film in and of itself.