Growing up in Washington, D.C., Ezra Edelman was a Georgetown University fan. He watched his beloved Hoyas compete in the rapidly-growing college basketball conference, the Big East.
Tomorrow night, the Peabody Award-winning filmmakers’s latest project Requiem For The Big East will premiere as part of ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 series (9 p.m. ET, ESPN). The film explores the meteoric ascension of the Big East Conference in the 1980s that led to it becoming the most successful college basketball sports league in America in less than a decade. It later found itself fighting for survival in a new era.
Front Row caught up with Edelman (also seen in the video above) to find out how his background influenced the documentary. He also discusses the importance of getting some of the biggest names in the conference to take part in the film.
How did being a Georgetown fan impact the direction you took in making this film?
It helped me understand the passion and loyalty inspired by the Big East. I was a kid watching Big East games weekly on my local D.C. affiliate. Most importantly, despite being a fan of the team, I understood the impact that the Hoyas had on the Big East and on college basketball overall. Unlike some of the other schools that really benefitted by their inclusion in the Big East, Georgetown would have been successful without the conference. But I’m not sure the Big East would have been the Big East without Georgetown.
The film features interviews with Big East legends like [head coaches] Jim Boeheim, Lou Carnesecca, John Thompson and [former Georgetown star center] Patrick Ewing. What did their involvement bring to the final product?
Their involvement meant everything. Beyond the success of the teams on the court, the Big East was built on the backs of its coaches and those coaches were characters – colorful, loud and distinct. In doing a film, I hoped to convey some of that dynamic through their voices three decades after they first became household names to sports fans.
Requiem For The Big East is narrated by actor Giancarlo Esposito, who most will recognize as “Gus” from AMC’s hit “Breaking Bad.” How did that come about?
I really hoped to find someone who aligned geographically and ethnically with the themes discussed in the film. This is about the Northeast and New York City, in particular, during the 1980s and Giancarlo is a New York guy. He’s in Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” wearing his Air Jordans. He knows basketball and lived through the time. I was very fortunate that he agreed to be a part of the movie – he was great to work with and his narration is the perfect complement to the characters and the footage.
Editor’s note: The Big East’s “Sweater Game” is discussed in the excerpt from the film below.
By Jennifer Cingari
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