Life Without Basketball takes us inside the world of Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir. As a record-breaking high school star and college athlete, her life as a basketball player had structure and a clear forward path. Bilqis was raised to follow the Quran and has been wearing hijab since the age of fourteen. She extends this practice onto the court as well, covering arms and legs underneath her uniform and wearing a tightly wrapped headscarf. When she began her college career in 2009 she became the first NCAA Division I athlete to do so. Her story attracted the attention of national media and later, the White House.
Having just come off the best year of her college career at Indiana State, Bilqis began pursuing her goal to play professionally. At this point she was informed that FIBA (the international governing body for the sport) had a rule banning headscarves from international competition. FIBA initially explained the rule as a measure to keep the game religiously neutral, and then later cited false safety concerns. The news came as a shock. Covering is an essential part of her faith and the rule puts her hoop dreams just out of grasp.
As Bilqis transitions out of the world of a professional athlete, we watch as she focuses her abilities on training the next generation of Muslim girls at the first of its kind athletic program at an Islamic school. The film explores the complex world of being Muslim in America, where family tradition and public perception are often at odds. We spend time with her parents and family gaining understanding of the challenges unique to African American Muslims, especially those who have converted from other faiths. We also elevate the sometimes mundane or ordinary parts of life that all Americans relate to. The film examines layers of identity, radical change, and common nostalgia.
After years of protest FIBA revised their rule in May of 2017 and Bilqis is now eligible to return to the court. Before a speaking engagement at the Global Forum for Sport and Human Rights in Geneva, Bilqis finally obtains an in-person meeting with the organization. Despite their lack of apology and willingness to offer support, she decides to pursue the game again on her own.
Life Without Basketball will inspire emotional involvement and provoke action.
The film promotes inclusion and empowerment through Bilqis’s journey to play professional basketball. It normalizes Muslim culture in America and abroad and offers positive images of African American family dynamics and women’s athletics. These narratives are actionable within communities and lead to sharing and organic audience building.
Through Bilqis and the film, we have developed relationship with non-profits, colleges, companies and community centers internationally. These relationships create opportunities for speaking events and screenings that create a dialogue and raise awareness of the prejudice that women, women of color, and Muslim women face in the world of athletics—a microcosm of the oppression they experience in the U.S. and abroad.
Our distribution plan for Life Without Basketball includes these kinds of grassroots community events in addition to a traditional track of theatrical, television, and streaming. We are also seeking to develop further educational content as an additional source of revenue and engagement.