By Despina Williams Parker
There are hoop dreams, and there are harsh realities.
“After the Sweat Dries,” Thomas Cznarty’s cautionary tale about the often cruel aftermath of athletic success, was an Official Selection at the Hoboken International Film Festival, held May 30-June 5 in Middletown, NY.
In the documentary, Cznarty, a New Paltz Digital Media instructor, sought to explore a topic that he believes has not garnered adequate media attention. “We wanted to inform athletes, sports enthusiasts and the layperson that after the stadium lights dim low and the cheering crowds go home, professional athletes need to have goals beyond sports, because their window of success is fleeting.”
The film profiles the lives of former New York Knicks point guard Ray Williams and Seton Hall University basketball assistant coach Shaheen Holloway. Both men experienced admirable success in the game, but their lives outside the stadium took very different turns.
Williams, who played 10 years in the NBA, found his career suddenly over after a contract dispute with the New York Nets. Once accustomed to a salary of $4-5 million a year, Williams could not sustain his former lifestyle. Within a decade, he had blown through his NBA pension, was homeless and living in his car.
Holloway, a Queens native, was a standout guard for Seton Hall from 1996-2000. After leading his team to the NCAA Tournament, his college career ended when he broke his ankle in three places during a game at Syracuse.
Holloway would go on to play in the European basketball league, but returned home to help raise his daughter, who was struggling academically. He has experienced great success as a Seton Hall coach, and gives back to his community by hosting summer basketball camps for youth. His daughter is now a Seton Hall undergraduate student.
Cznarty sought to highlight the differences in the two men’s responses to adversity. While Holloway was able to bounce back from disappointment and pursue positive career and personal changes, Williams proved completely unprepared for life after the NBA. “Ray didn’t have a back-up plan,” Cznarty said.
Just as Williams’s life seemed to briefly take a turn for the better – a profile in the Boston Globe led to a job with the Mount Vernon recreation department, and he reunited with and married a former girlfriend – Williams developed cancer. In less than a year after Cznarty visited him at his home, Williams passed away without ever seeing the finished documentary.
At the June 2 screening at the Hoboken Film Festival, held in the Paramount Theater, the film received a positive response from attendees. “After the screening, everyone applauded loudly. It made an impact on the audience, so that was very rewarding,” said Cznarty.
Cznarty returned two nights later to attend the screening of the short film, “Choices,” by his student and Digital Storytelling standout Catherine Kaczor. Cznarty called the fictional film, about a young, disillusioned woman, “beautifully rendered.”
This year, the Hoboken International Film Festival had over 1,500 film submissions, and a jury of industry insiders accepted less than 10 percent. Only a handful were documentaries.
Cznarty said festival success is crucial, as numerous distribution company representatives attend the screenings and broker deals with filmmakers. “The goal is to sell the film and get it broadcast and get a distribution deal,” he said.
In June, “After the Sweat Dries” won the Accolade Competition’s Award of Merit in the short documentary category. Accolade is a juried, international awards competition, and the Award of Merit recognizes “notable artistic and technical productions.”
Cznarty has also submitted the film to the Sundance, South by Southwest and American Film Institute festivals, and hopes to showcase his work in these venues in the fall and winter.
– Despina Williams