Hot Docs 2024: Qs à la mode with… Hamoody Jaafar (Rouge)

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In Rouge, director Hamoody Jaafar traces the decades-long basketball dynasty at Michigan’s River Rouge High School as a new generation of players shoots for a championship win. We posed our Qs à la mode to Hamoody, and here’s what he shared!


If I had to describe my film using only three adjectives, they would be: Resilient, authentic, historic.

I decided to make this film because: I grew up watching River Rouge basketball in the 1990s and I looked up to the late Brent Darby Sr. I didn’t decide anything, to be honest — I feel like it was destined and it was decided for me. I say that because I selfishly went out to film a high school prospect named Emoni Bates in December of 2019 and was denied access to his locker room. That blessing of denial led me into his opponent’s locker room, which was River Rouge High School. And in that moment, I discovered that Brent Darby Jr. was at his father’s alma mater playing for his late-father’s coach. And they ended up beating Emoni Bates team that night. After falling down a rabbit hole of research after that, I was completely consumed and overtaken by everything that was transpiring so I really had no choice. 

The thing that surprised me most about my film’s subject/topic was: I guess it would be how the climax comes across. But I love the subtle simplicity of such a jarring moment.

The toughest part of the shoot was: Doing it for no money and doing it on sheer will, passion… and then dealing with the COVID pandemic.

My favorite moment/scene/sequence in my film is: Too many to name but probably any scene that Squeak and CJ are in. I also really love going back in time to the historic eras of the film.

My most invaluable piece of doc-making equipment was/is: The ARRI ALEXA Mini and my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera have been my go-to cameras for years and continue to be. My doc work isn’t the same without them. 

One piece of documentary-filmmaking advice I’d like to share with aspiring documentarians is: Follow your gut. From a story’s inception to the filmmaking process, instinctually your inner voice and feelings tell you all you need to know. 


Want to check out Hamoody’s film, or just learn more about it?
Get the scoop, and your tickets, here!


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