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The Independent Critic

Jane Simon Ammeson, Michael Artis, Mirko Blesich, Ron Divjak, Ray Flores, Bill Holzbach, Juda Parks, LaTaunya Pollard, Gregg Popovich, Lonnie Randolph
Tim Helfen
100 Mins.
Tim Helfen Productions

 "We are E.C." Screens at 2017 Indy Film Fest 
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Screening at the 2017 Indy Film Fest, We Are E.C. chronicles the rich basketball tradition of East Chicago, Indiana, a community of 30,000 people that has, far too often, lived in the shadow of neighboring Gary, Indiana. 

Written and directed by Tim Helfen, We Are E.C. is a 100-minute journey through a basketball-crazed town's ups and downs with the sport, though the overwhelming emphasis is on how basketball helped the incredibly diverse East Chicago develop its own identity despite being next to Gary and in the shadows of Chicago. One of the Hoosier entries into this year's Indy Film Fest, which has gained a deserved reputation for screening Indiana-made during the festival, We Are E.C. is the debut feature from Helfen, who is from Southern Indiana but whose parents grew up in Griffith and whose great-grandparents immigrated to East Chicago from Romania. 

If you've ever been to East Chicago, and I've done outreach events in the community on multiple occasions, you'll likely recognize many of the names interviewed in the film and you'll nod in agreement when East Chicago's culturally diverse population is mentioned time and again. From 12-year NBA player Junior Bridgeman to basketball and community legend Pete Trgovich and others, We Are E.C. practically serves as a hit parade of feel good memories that avoids political controversies from recent years along with East Chicago's own water quality issues that have been in the news in recent months. As someone familiar with East Chicago, these issues were in the back of my mind but for those who are simply basketball crazy this will be an enjoyable view and a slice of basketball history that's never really received the recognition it deserved. 

We Are E.C. journeys through four of East Chicago's boys basketball state championships, a journey that highlights the area's rich pool of talent that is further evidenced by the community having at least 100 players who went on to play Division I basketball, one former ABA player, and six NBA players - all from a community of 30,000 people.


We Are E.C. is hindered by its lower budget, an impact most strongly on display in the film's retro-styled narration that seems to be trying to mirror the old high school basketball announcers yet is largely ineffective for a feature doc. The film's production design, especially in the use of graphics, lacks the passion possessed by so many of those who are interviewed in the film and who are obviously passionate about East Chicago and East Chicago basketball. We Are E.C. succeeds mostly on the strength of those telling its story, though tighter editing and a few more tweaks could have resulted in an even more satisfying motion picture. 

Despite its limitations, this Indiana-based story should appeal to Indiana's legion of basketball fans and here's hoping that those fine folks from East Chicago visit Naptown to check out We Are E.C. during the Indy Film Fest that runs from July 13-23, 2017 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. For festival information, visit the Indy Film Festival website

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic