Green Lens Review: Q Ball

A scene from the film "Q Ball."  Image from Los Angeles Times
A scene from the film “Q Ball.” Image from Los Angeles Times

This blog is one in a series of Green Lens Reviews, considering films from a sustainability perspective.


“Q Ball” follows a season of the San Quentin Warriors, a team of inmates that plays outsiders and – at the end – the coaching staff of the Golden State Warriors farm team. We learn about the men’s personal stories and the crimes they committed. This documentary also asks whether the support and coaching of a team structure can help in rehabilitation.

Director: Mike Tolajian, a Senior VP at Fox Sports. Executive Producer: Kevin Durant, Golden State Warrior forward.


In a setting chock-a-block with convicted felons, this movie is all about helping others to have better lives. The coach – also an inmate – goes beyond basketball to teach life skills. Most of the players have an impressive level of self-awareness. So I am tempted to give the film a green lens for its courageous humanity.

However, the movie highlights California’s three strikes law, which can put someone with three felonies in prison for 25 years, even if the third offense is minor. One of the inmates in the film was serving a long sentence for possessing a firearm. Verdict: 1/2 lens.


The movie didn’t sway me either direction on resource stewardship issues. However, a little research found that San Quentin has an environmental literacy program called The Green Life Program, “one of the few environmental education programs that exists within a United States prison.” These guys may be more aware of environmental issues than some of us! You can read more about the 10-year-old program here. Verdict: 1 lens.


California spends about $81,000 per prisoner per year. Anything that helps keep people from going back to prison is a profit winner. Verdict: 1 lens.

What Did I Think?

The movie was an excellent piece of storytelling with good pacing for the most part, and presented the inmates’ stories factually, without judgment. An extra lens for that!

The Final Verdict: 3 1/2 Lenses

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