Ben Proudfoot (October 29, 1990) is a Canadian filmmaker from Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is most noted as codirector with Kris Bowers of the short documentary film A Concerto Is a Conversation, which was an Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary (Short Subject) at the 93rd Academy Awards in 2021. Proudfoot was named one of Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” honorees. In addition to being a world-class magician, he founded Breakwater films in 2012, primarily dedicated to the short documentary form.
Proudfoot attended film school at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts and, in partnership with the New York Times, Breakwater Films has helmed “The Queen of Basketball,” the story of Lusia “Lucy” Harris Stewart. Skillfully interweaving film footage with Lucy’s own observations and with charming background music, this is a very well-done and insightful short documentary.
As Proudfoot says of his documentary, “The visual legacy of Lusia “Lucy” Harris, as told from memory in her own voice, painted a portrait of one of the most important American athletes of the 20th century.”
Ben and his team digitized nearly 10,000 film negatives and 16,000 feet of film that had lain in the college vaults for 50 years to produce this 22 and ½ minute documentary. The film had its World Premiere at 2021’s New York Tribeca Film Festival. It won Best Documentary Short at the 2021 Palm Springs Film Festival, which is an Oscar-qualifying film festival.
Told in her own words, Lusia “Lucy” Harris, #45, from Cleveland, Mississippi, is living testimony to the inequities in women’s versus men’s sports that Title IX started to address in 1972. Lucy, at 6’ 3”, was a gifted athlete who led Delta State and Memphis State to three consecutive national titles with the AIAW (Association for Inter-collegiate Athletics for Women). Lucy was also on the women’s U.S. Olympic team the very first year that women’s basketball was admitted to the Olympics, snagging the silver medal and scoring the first-ever basket for women at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Lucy, the 1976 Amateur Athlete of the Year, was the first woman inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Coached by Margaret Wade of Mississippi’s Delta State, the Lady Statesmen played to a packed 4,500-seat fieldhouse for the women’s basketball games, double the men’s following. They also flew to their games, while the men took the bus. The biggest rivalry, documented in Proudfoot’s film, was Immaculata College, which had been the two-time national champion before Delta State beat them 90 to 81.
And yet nobody today knows Lucy’s name.
As Lucy muses in the documentary, “If I’d been a man, there would have been options for me to go further” (after graduating from college). There were none. Instead, Lucy married her high school boyfriend, George, and turned down a try-out offer from the NBA’s Utah Jazz.
Instead, Lucy had five children, endured mental problems (including a nervous breakdown) after her playing days were over, and worked at her old high school (Amanda Elzy Panthers) as head coach.
This short documentary comes at the perfect time in history, when women are demanding equity in pay and opportunity. In much of the world, that seems to be happening, but in a world with Honor Killings and young girls like Malala mortally wounded merely for wanting to acquire a good education, a film like this is more than timely. It is necessary.