'Push: Madison vs. Madison' in local film fest

Earlier this month, across the country in San Jose at the 13th Annual Cinequest Film Fesitval, the Boston-based documentary "Push: Madison versus Madison" premiered. The result was an encouraging response for the film's star, Madison Park head boys basketball coach Dennis Wilson, as well as director Rudy Hypolite.

For Hypolite -- whose film chronicles the stretch run of the Cardinals' historic 2006-07 season, and the hardscrabble lives of the players off the court -- it was an overall "great showing", complete with standing ovations and the post-showing question and answer sessions often extending beyond the designated 15 minutes, moving into the hallways.

"There were a couple of comments comparing it to 'Hoop Dreams', which is flattering," said Hypolite, referring to the acclaimed 1994 documentary.

Meanwhile the boisterous, philosophizing protagonist Wilson got to expound on his star power -- "I signed my first autographs, two guys and a young lady asked," he said. "And I met some real heavyweights, too."

But Hypolite also returned to New England with some ideas, and will be back on the cutting room floor the next few weeks making some tweaks as they get prepared for their next showing: the Independent Film Festival of Boston.

The festival runs from April 27 to May 4, and once again "Push" is getting a prime-time slot: Saturday, April 30, 7:30 p.m. at the Somerville Theatre ("They gave us a hellified time and a hellified day," Wilson laughed). Wilson will be doing everything he can to "pack the house" for the event, while Hypolite will be touching up the rough edges at the Arlington-based Killswitch Productions, with the help of editor Chris O'Coin.

Without giving too much away, Wilson offered up some of those tweaks to ESPNBoston.com late last week. Namely, they would be shooting some quick footage at the school, to get a sense of the school's size, as well as some city skyline shots from Memorial Drive.

Wilson and Hypolite also appeared this afternoon on WCVB-TV's "Cityline", where they discussed the film with host Karen Holmes Ward.

For Hypolite, a Roxbury native and long-time friend of Wilson, the story of Wilson's 2007 team hits close to home. Hypolite moved to Boston from Trinidad & Tobago as a teenager, and grew up in the Academy Homes tenant community where one of the film's stars, current UMaine guard Raheem "Radio" Singleton, lived during the season.

And of course, there are few more fascinating subjects than the flowing personality of Wilson.

"He's the mayor of Boston," says Hypolite, who graduated Boston English High in 1979 and graduated with a degree in television and film production from Boston University in 1983. "He's so energetic, it's great whenever you're around him. You feel that enthusiasm. There isn't a place you go with him where someone comes up to him, 'Hey, Coach Wilson', and somehow he remembers most of them, whether he had an influence on them in the classroom (Wilson teaches history) or in basketball.

"When they were ranked No. 1 (in the state, in 2007), hearing the stories about the team over all these years, and just knowing his personality, I thought, 'Wow, OK, this would be a great person to form a documentary around'. Everything he says, it's as if it was scripted, it's so perfect."