When it comes to documentary filmmaking, there are few red flags more glaring than the film’s subject serving as the singular creative voice behind the project. We are rarely able to view our lives through an objective lens from the comfort of our own thoughts, much less in the constructed image we project out into the world. But hip-hop multi-hyphenate Bobbito García’s story is so intrinsically tied to that of American history that it only benefits from a first-hand account. Splicing together conversations with movers and shakers of nearly every art form who have been touched by García’s legacy, Rock Rubber 45s tells the verdant tale of the role of basketball, sneakers, and music in global urban culture, beginning in New York City and expanding to an international aesthetic identity.
“…conversations with movers and shakers of nearly every art form who have been touched by García’s legacy…”
A remarkable testament to Bobbito García’s storied résumé is how difficult it is to summarize his career history into a few quick job titles. Since the early 1980s, he has been turning heads across a wide variety of venues, first as a street basketball prodigy, then as a pioneer for sneaker culture, as the host of a groundbreaking WKCR-FM radio show, and a columnist for some of the most prominent publications in marginalized society. A cross-media tastemaker, García’s recommendations would soon become gospel, inspiring countless supporters who have identified with his stylized way of life.
García is the director of the documentary, but he certainly isn’t the only voice we encounter. Fans from Questlove to Lin-Manuel Miranda to Patti LaBelle gather together to share stories of his pervasive influence in their lives. Sure, their testimonials often amount to little more than devotees gushing over meeting an idol from their youth, but there is an unsullied passion in their words that give their endorsements a lingering earnestness that elevates them high above idle praise. Still, this isn’t the first documentary Bobbito García has devoted to his own influence, and as we see archival footage, a pattern begins to form as the vanity project begins to give way to its subject’s ego.
“…a pattern begins to form as the vanity project begins to give way to its subject’s ego.”
Nevertheless, his story is an undeniably addictive one, told in such a way that it makes a compelling argument for further research after the credits roll. In Rock Rubber 45s, García once again boasts a keen eye and he is able to distance himself – for the most part – enough to take an objective view at his sweeping professional career, even including his numerous and notable failures in the narrative. In doing so, viewers are at least given the illusion of a complete portrait. There is a reason admirers have clung to his words for nearly four decades. From a mile away, he is able to recognize the potential for widespread appeal and, more importantly, he knows how to convince others to come onboard. As a filmmaker, Bobbito García continues to flaunt his superb abilities as a trend-setter.
Rock Rubber 45s (2018) Directed by Bobbito García. Written by Bobbito García. Starring: Bobbito García, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Rosie Perez, Questlove, Chuck D, Chris Paul, Patti LaBelle, Michael Rapaport
7 out of 10