'Native Ball,' various times, PBS

NEW YORK (OSV News) – A warmhearted profile of a pioneering Indigenous American sports figure is provided in filmmakers Jonathan Cipiti and Megan Harrington's documentary "Native Ball: Legacy of a Trailblazer." Produced by Family Theater Productions, the roughly half-hour film will air on PBS affiliates beginning Nov. 1.

A follow-up to Cipiti and Harrington's 2020 retrospective "The House That Rob Built," about the career of longtime University of Montana women's basketball coach Robin Selvig, this project focuses on one of Selvig's most high-profile proteges, Barbara "Malia" Kipp. Raised on the Treasure State's Blackfeet Indian Reservation, Kipp began her college career in 1992.

At the time, about 5,000 American high-school girls annually received a full Division I basketball scholarship. Once recruited by Selvig for his squad, known as the Lady Griz, Kipp became the sole Native American among them.

Via archival footage and photographs – as well as interviews with Kipp's parents, Coach Selvig, and a trio of later players who were inspired by Kipp's example – the writer-directors tell an inspiring tale of challenges met and odds overcome. Additionally, Kipp herself makes a brief but deeply emotional reference to the role faith played in her success.

Tearing up as she recalls the advice, Kipp quotes her paternal grandmother as saying, "God doesn't put things in our way to break you. Those things you perceive as burdens, they're a privilege."

Despite the difficulty of balancing her cultural heritage and the sometimes alien mores of the wider society – and conscious of the consequences of failure while in the spotlight – by her senior year, Kipp had risen to the rank of team captain. She now serves the elderly Blackfeet community as a geriatric nurse.

"Native Ball" may not be of interest to small children. But this engaging movie contains nothing that would prevent the rest of the family from benefiting from Kipp's uplifting life story.- - - John Mulderig is media reviewer for OSV News. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) @JohnMulderig1.