Soderberg’s latest experimentation with the iPhone focuses on a struggling idealistic player agent during an NBA “lockout”. You may wonder how so small a camera manages to capture or at least replicate the drama of fast-paced sporting action, particularly the pinnacle grandstand moment of that ole rags to riches sports tale. Without spoiling anything, let me tell you it doesn’t. Or more to the point, High Flying Bird is less concerned with the sport of basketball itself than it is with “The game on top of the game”.
Instead of an arena, the game is played out in offices and instead of action, there is dialogue. Considering the constrained budget and production schedule, it is a testament to the cast and to the screenplay that the film holds together at all. And yet it does. The performances are naturalistic while the story moves along at pace, generally eschewing exposition.
In keeping its focus narrow, centring on a small cast of characters, Tyrell Alvin McCraney’s screenplay cuts to the core of issues of race and power in the NBA without a whisper of melodrama. In fact, considering the wider story it is telling the High Flying Bird remains upbeat and inherently promotes a message of positivity.
High Flying Bird will not be for everyone, it could be accused of being a little dry. However it is an intriguing experiment in film-making which finds a new way to tell a story which needs telling.