Thursday, July 10, 2014

Out of the Basement: A Story of Perseverance and Community

Out of the Basement is a documentary short by filmmakers Natalie Avery and Kyle Centers. The film tells the story of Columbia Heights boxer, Greg Newby, as he strives to overcome his past and enter a professional boxing career, even though he has been repeatedly told that the odds are against him.

Avery first heard of Greg’s story while she was a student at The Institute for Documentary Filmmaking at George Washington University. One of her classmates discovered Lime Lite Boxing Gym, where Greg trained, and told Avery about this hidden gem filled with great stories and the great protagonists of these stories. When Avery met Greg at Lime Lite, she was fascinated by his resilience and wanted to learn more.

The dynamic between Greg and his father, Tony, was especially of interest to Avery, who wanted to delve into how they navigate and make sense of the tension posed by competing fears and ambitions.

To share a little of his story (without any major spoilers), Greg thought he had his life figured out—a career in the coastguard, a family, a reliable paycheck—but suddenly that was all gone. These tragedies were not only disappointing to Greg but to his father as well who had hoped for him to have a different kind of life and not have to face the struggles that he had as a young man.

Through the process of telling Greg’s story, Avery learned that you don’t need to reach your ultimate goal to have significant change occur in your life, “Greg may or may not become a world champion," writes Avery, "He may not, as he hopes, make a good living off boxing. But he has learned what he is capable of in the journey so far.”

Even if you aren’t into the DC boxing subculture, this film has something to offer you. On the surface, the film is about a boxer and has the audience on the edge of their seats wondering “Is he going to make it?” But in Avery's words, the boxing is a metaphor about something greater, "the rawness and the struggle of rising to the challenge of life, especially a life in this economy where there is such a winner take all mentality.”

Indeed, Avery hopes that one of the main messages that youth learn from the film is that success requires individual diligence and perseverance but also depends on the strength of the community surrounding oneself.

For show times (many screenings are at DC Public Libraries) and trailers, see

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