CAAMFest 2024: “Home Court” – The Basketball Journey of Ashley Chea

CAAMFest 2024: “Home Court” – The Basketball Journey of Ashley Chea

Director Erica Tanamachi, Producer Jenn Lee Smith, Executive Producer Diane Quon, and Writer/Editor Jean Kawahara

Home Court was one of the CAAMFest 2024 films I was most excited to screen:

Ashley Chea is a Cambodian American basketball phenom. Home Court, filmed over three years, is a coming-of-age story that relays the highs and lows of her immigrant family, surmounting racial and class differences, as well as personal trials that include a devastating knee injury. Despite the intensity of basketball recruiting, Ashley’s humor shines through and her natural talent inspires the support of those around her. This film was made with support from CAAM.”

Given the recent increase popularity of women’s college basketball, especially because of Caitlin Clark, I was really looking forward to seeing her story.  The movie reminded me of watching the documentary LINSANITY about Jeremy Lin at CAAMFest back in 2013.

Mini-Review (some spoilers)
This film follows high school student Ashley Chea starting from her sophomore year until when she graduates.  It covers her high school basketball career, from recovering from an injury to becoming a recruited college athlete. We see that Ashley’s family comes from humble beginnings as immigrants from Cambodia, a country that experienced genocide by the Khmer Rouge. Ashley’s parents work long and hard hours to provide for the family in their donut shop and often could not attend Ashley’s games. Most notable is the strong bond Ashley has with her basketball coach, a strong willed and motherly woman who had her own immigrant family struggles.

Overall, I enjoyed the film – seeing Ashley and her parents go through highs and lows. I thought what was most interesting was to see Ashley being recruited by the colleges. She wanted to go to school away from home while her parents of course wanted her to be close to home, so at the very least  they could see some of her basketball games. You can see from the early footage as a kid to her as a high school player that Ashley is a super tough and talented basketball player. We often do not think of Asian Americans as athletes, so I think it is so important to have films like Home Court that Asian Americans can be anything we want to be, including being elite athletes.

Post Screening Q&A
The filmmakers – director Erica Tanamachi, producer Jenn Lee Smith, and writer/editor Jean Kawahara – discussed the process of making a film. They started from the initial idea to the challenges faced during production. They emphasized the significance of the story, especially given context of the rise in popularity of women’s college basketball this year, which revolves around a woman of color and an immigrant family – along with the Cambodian community and how they navigated sensitive topics such as family dynamics and historical trauma of the Khmer Rouge genocide. Throughout the conversation, there is a focus on honoring the sacrifices of mothers and highlighting the resilience of communities portrayed in the film – this screening occurred on Mother’s Day this year (Sunday, May 12, 2024). The filmmakers also expresses gratitude to the team involved and discusses distribution plans for the film, including screenings at various festivals and on PBS.

Home Court will be aired on PBS during March Madness next Spring 2025.  As for Ashley, she played basketball for her Freshman year at Princeton University, part of an Ivy League Championship team that played in the 2024 NCAA March Madness tournament.




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