By Allan Perkins
When they started filming last year, they didn’t have any money, didn’t have much experience and didn’t have any access.
A little more than a year later, space was the only thing they didn’t have.
Ryerson journalism student Luke Galati, along with his crew members, sold out their fourth screening of Eastern, a documentary on the closing of Toronto’s basketball powerhouse Eastern Commerce High School and its effect on the community.
The Thursday night screening was a huge hit—dozens had to stand because The Sport Gallery in the Distillery District was packed so tight. It even drew some high-profile figures in the Toronto basketball scene, like Raptors’ GM Masai Ujiri, Ryerson’s men’s basketball head coach Roy Rana, TSN’s Leo Rautins and former NBA All-star and Eastern Commerce standout Jamaal Magloire.
“We can’t let this story go untold, we got to have more people see it, it’s so special,” said Rana, who was able to see the documentary at a screening earlier this year.
Galati and his crew teamed up with Rana and the rest of the men’s basketball team to sell tickets to an additional screening and have all the proceeds from the evening go toward the Shae Frattura Memorial Scholarship. Frattura was a former Ryerson basketball player and the team’s alumni ambassador for five years. He passed away last summer.
The documentary—winner of the Best Sport Documentary at this year’s Toronto Short Film Festival in March—means a lot to a lot of people, including Galati, its director.
“I thought that ‘wow, it’s literally the greatest basketball program in Canadian history and it’s closing down.’ And then I was looking for other articles that people were writing and I noticed there weren’t any,” Galati said. “I [wanted] to document this.”
Eastern follows Eastern Commerce’s final season from the perspective of four of its players and students. Not just on the basketball court, but what the school meant to them as individuals.
“At first I was apprehensive and then I just embraced it because Luke did a wonderful job,” Eastern Commerce head coach Kevin Jeffers said. “Without this video happening, this era of basketball at this school would have been gone.”