“Entrepreneur” only begins to describe the life and career of Robert “Bobbito” Garcia. At 50 years old, he’s experienced stints at jobs that people strive for most of their working lives. His life and work experiences can be linked back to his love of basketball, down to when he was a young boy trying to ball with the older kids. As he weaves between being a hit New York DJ, shoe connoisseur, and philanthropist, his tie to basketball never waivers.
In Rock Rubber 45s, Garcia refuses to let anyone else tell his story, which may its biggest flaw. Managing both ends of the lens in this autobiographical documentary is endearing, but there’s more than a few instances of self-congratulations and a few loops that are conveniently left open.
Rock Rubber 45s
Director: Bobbito Garcia
Release Date: July 24, 2018
Garcia’s story is a deep dive that starts with his days as the little brother who wants to play with his older brother and his friends. Garcia, never one to be deterred, quickly learned the need to play against the best competition to sharpen his skills. This lesson is one he’s carried with him throughout his life, and it shows throughout the documentary. There’s plenty (repeat, plenty) of footage of him on the court making defenders look foolish with his streetball antics, which generally doesn’t translate well to team play. This is especially important to remember when Garcia reflects on his college yearts where his coach never started him and rarely played him. Garcia comes off the victim, which feels a bit too convenient.
Even with his struggle to receive playing time in college, his grit and refusal to quit the team is highly commendable. His drive and determination led him to the opportunity to play professional ball in his family’s home of Puerto Rico before turning his focus to DJing clubs around New York. His beats and parties brought attention and celebrity friends, as seen throughout the documentary. The likes of Questlove, Talib Kewli, Chuck D, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Rosie Perez, and Rosario Dawson make appearances in both interviews and flashback footage. Garcia would go on to work and write for Vibe and The Source, before moving on for reasons unclear. Another open loop.
When mixing basketball, music, and New York, it’s nearly impossible to do so without some sense of independent fashion. Garcia talks about how he would tape and paint Nikes different colors because he wanted something no one else had. People took notice, including Nike, who eventually collaborated with Garcia on some limited edition Air Force Ones. He hosted It’s the Shoes from ESPN Films, where he visited celebrity shoe closets to talk shop. It was here he realized his platform to help those in need. With each celebrity, he’d have them sign a shoe, which would then go to auction. The money raised sent shoes, clothes, and gear to kids in Zimbabwe to give them the opportunity to play basketball. The doc follows Garcia to his first visit as he shows kids basketball fundamentals during a camp.
Easily the most personal and reflective areas of the film are Garcia’s trouble with his drunk father and his revelation of being sexually abused as a child. Both are difficult things to open up about, especially in front of a camera to be edited into a film that will be seen by many, but Garcia is hopeful his message can inspire. He made the conscious decision to thrive in spite of his past instead of letting it determine his worth. He doesn’t dance around the difficulties he’s experienced, and his willingness to be open and honest can be seen as a beacon of light.
Bobbito Garcia’s story is extremely uplifting. Even if (from a storytelling and directorial standpoint) an outsider’s view may have been a more apposite option, it’s not the Bobbito way. The flaws are there, from the aforementioned loops to Garcia’s full interview ownership to be sliced and diced to his suiting which leads to the seemingly unnecessary feature-length runtime. But the key takeaway provided by Garcia is his determination to follow his love of basketball, music, and fashion to forge a path that led to opportunities opened in part to luck, but largely in part to an unwillingness to be tossed aside.