Streaming: Disney Plus
Release Date: June 24, 2022
Actors: Dayo Okeniyi as Charles Antetokounmpo, Yetide Badaki as Veronica “Vera” Antetokounmpo, Uche Agada as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ral Agada as Athanasios “Thanasis” Antetokounmpo, Elijah Sholanke as Alexandros “Alex” Antetokounmpo, and Jaden Osimuwa as Kostantinos “Kostas” Antetokounmpo
Synopsis: Based on the real-life story about the Antetokounmpo family, the first family to produce a trio of brothers who go on to become NBA champions. It explores their journey as Nigerian immigrants in Greece striving for a better life.
Many of us know about, or at least have heard of, Giannis Antetokounmpo (aka The Greek Freak) from his MVP awards and 2021 championship with the Milwaukee Bucks. For years now, he’s been dominating the NBA. We also know that he was born in Greece to Nigerian parents and has siblings in the NBA. One thing we are not sure about is his upbringing…until now. With the film Rise, audiences and fans can get a glimpse of what it was like for Antetokounmpo growing up. You’ll be surprised to learn what Giannis’ family had to go through…I know I was.
We’ve seen it before: the overseas basketball player struggling financially with aspirations to play in the NBA. But Rise has a different narrative; Giannis and his brothers were also trying to avoid deportation while living in Greece. Not ony does this make for a more interesting film with layers, but also provides a better feel for the family’s obstacles. This film brings to light the family’s obstacles and their persistence to make ends meet while also showcasing their optimism. This gave me a better understanding of why Giannis and his brothers are down to earth on the court and on social media. The scenes when the family was almost caught by the authorities and deported back to Nigeria felt incredibly tense. They were barely escaping each time, and so I couldn’t help but cheer for this family’s breakthrough since it was clear they needed it. It elicited an oddly intense response from me, especially for a Disney film. I found this quite impressive. Even during the part of the movie where Giannis was drafted, I couldn’t help but watch with great antcipation!
The direction and videography were very well executed in this film. Historically, it hasn’t been easy capturing the beauty of dark skin on screen, especially when it comes to lighting and angles, but this wasn’t an issue in this film. This is my first time watching a piece directed by Akin Omotoso and I look forward to seeing more of his work.
I have to be honest. When it comes to biopics, sometimes they aren’t the best quality, but I can say that Rise was well done. There was nothing lacking in the acting, especially with Yetide Badaki who played Giannis’ mother and who is Nigerian herself. She was nurturing, protective, and also provided an inspiring presence on screen. Every time I saw her, she reminded me of not only my mother but also other Black mothers I know.
Dayo Okeniyi (as Giannis’ father, Charles) also had a great performance. Portraying a father who’s doing all he can to provide for his family, considering everything they’d overcome, the stress was real and Dayo was able to channel that stress. I can only imagine how it would feel consistently trying to find ways to bring joy to my family while dealing with such difficult circumstances.
The actors portraying Giannis and his brothers added to the great performance of the cast as a whole. Uche Agada was convincing as a newcomer learning how to play the game of basketball at a later age. He provided a believable fish-out-of-water perspective. When the boys were faced with racism as teenagers, it definitely resonated with me because I too have experienced racism at a young age, as I’m sure many other young men of color have.
Overall, this film was a well-crafted project for Disney Plus that the entire family can watch and enjoy. It’s a film about family, love, and perseverance. After watching this film, I have a better appreciation for the Antetokounmpo family as a whole and it made me respect the former MVP even more. The writing and acting were compelling, and I hope many people watch this film as it’s a fresh take on a basketball story that happens to be based on true events. Not only am I cheering for the success of this film, but I am also cheering for the success of the Antetokounmpo family.