‘Chester Pride’ is a feature length movie about Chester High School basketball. It features footage of the 2015-16 season of the Chester High School boys basketball team as they struggled early in the season but ended up deep in the State playoffs. 

When the movie isn’t following the team, the coach, and their players, it provides a history of Chester basketball as told by former players dating back to the 60s including Bo Ryan, Herman Harris, Randy Leggett, John Linehan, Jameer Nelson, Zane Shaw, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and includes some Lew Alcindor and Kobe Bryant reference and their connection to Chester basketball.

I had the privilege to be invited with 5 others to view the first showing of ‘Chester Pride’ last night in the most beautiful pandemic appropriate setting imaginable – a backyard deck. 

Filmmaker Ben Pickup has done a magnificent job capturing many facets of Chester basketball. For me, it was a virtual flashback of my basketball upbringing starting in Biddy League; playing outdoors at The Cage; attending games at The VOC and getting a present-day tour of the ruins of that building from former CHS player Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland and his coach School District Receiver Juan Baughn; seeing my coach Cliff Wilson; and listening to some of the greatest players who have come out of the program. The Chester High School cheerleaders get a lot of attention, too.

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I first met Ben Pickup during the 2015-16 season bumping into him on the sidelines often as we both were fighting for the best angles to capture footage. Since his gear was way more expensive than mine, I figured he’d be a good guy to know.

The story arc starts by introducing the type of city Chester is, to introducing us to basketball tryouts before we see the final team in action. There’s plenty of locker room footage and locker room talk (cover your ears) as real game clips and coach’s huddles put you right in the action. Individual profiles of a couple players reminds you how much basketball means to them as individuals facing the challenges they face off the court. As the movie progresses, you can’t help but to root for these guys. You walk away absorbing the life lessons they are being taught regarding winning and losing, being a team player, and the value of hard work. 

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Film maker Ben Pickup sets the stage before starting the movie at a time when all I was focused on were the shrimps, the corn salsa and chips, and the adult beverages. The Rita’s water ice was a nice touch.

After a round of applause to Ben for putting together a remarkable movie, we sat around for nearly another hour and a half picking it apart because that’s why he invited us to watch. Everyone offered unique and valuable recommendation from music, captions, order of appearance, length of interviews, favorite parts and not so favorite parts. We anticipated the reaction Chester people of different age groups will have to the movie and considered how the wider audience who know nothing of Chester will receive it. 

A couple of my photos from that season when Ben Pickup was filming for this movie

Movie makers pull their hair out when they have so much material to work with, so little time to present it on screen, and so many audiences to consider. As Ben said, the movie is not going to please everyone and it’s best if there are parts in the movie you love and other parts that disgust you. Part of his job as movie maker is to poke as many emotions as he can to keep you engaged. 

Although not a finished product yet, ‘Chester Pride’ the movie is magnificent and represents Chester well. He expects it to be ready for the major film festivals by late summer. 

As Ben does his final tweaks and twerks, there are plans to do several public viewings in Chester, indoors and outdoors. If you have any recommendations for potential venues to hold it, leave a comment. Everything is fair game at this point. And, one of the most valuable pieces of art no one has been able to come up with for the movie is a photo from The Cage, just in case you have one laying around somewhere.

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