New short film is queer love letter to Chicago basketball


Directed by Camp Lucky’s Sai Selvarajan, the short film We Clap For Airballs delves into the transformative impact of Swish, Chicago’s first QTBIPOC-centered basketball meet-up, showcasing the deep sense of healing and unity it has brought to the community.

The film, currently enjoying a successful festival run, premiered in the latest issue of Condé Nast’s THEM magazine and is now available to view on YouTube. It has already won the Best Documentary award at the NYU Sports Film Festival and Best Short Doc at the Oak Cliff Film Festival. The next public screening will be at the Uninterrupted Film Festival in July, a Los Angeles-based event focused on the intersection of sports culture and filmmaking, hosted in collaboration with Tribeca Enterprises.

“I found Swish on Instagram and followed them for six months,” shares Sai. “Having experience with short documentaries and a passion for basketball, I was drawn to their impeccable vibe. I travelled to Chicago to capture their story, spending a day with Jamiece to understand Swish’s origins and its significance to the QTBIPOC community. It was crucial to highlight their voices, and Swish’s style and joy naturally began to shine through.”

The short film follows the stories of four friends – Jamiece, TBanks, Ishara, and Z – who met on a Chicago basketball court, united by their love for the sport and a craving for community. At the tail-end of the pandemic, their small pickup games quickly grew, leading to the birth of Swish in 2021.

The film explores Swish’s origins, the players’ passion for basketball, and the healing connections forged both on and off the court. Swish serves as a brave space, as opposed to a safe space, encouraging continuous education through accountability and the understanding that there is always room for growth. Watch below:

“Pretty soon, the court was full of queer and trans folks of color stretching together, shooting hoops, and laughing,” expresses Z. Explaining the meaning behind the film’s title, Ishara adds, “Our number one rule is that we clap for air balls. We clap for showing up. It doesn’t matter how many times you clap, clap even if you miss it because you shot the ball. You came out here and showed up. That’s worth clapping for.”

Sai Selvarajan is no stranger to the filmmaking world, having successfully premiered two films at SXSW, winning a Jury Prize and an Audience Award. Among his achievements is Coup d’état Math, an animated short film he wrote, edited, and directed, focusing on the complex journeys of four immigrants.

Additionally, one of his most personal projects, The Unlikely Fan, highlights the story of his mother, Gita Selvarajan, and her passion for sport, leading her to become the most unlikely of basketball enthusiasts.



  • Director Sai Selvarajan
  • Executive Producer Brandon Tapp
  • Producer Teresa Cameron
  • Producer Lisa Kleypas
  • Producer Shannon Leahy
  • Director of Photography Ivy Chiu
  • Drone Operator Igor Cedeno
  • Photographer Laidric Stevenson
  • Gaffer Steve Semkiw
  • Location Manager Danny Rodriguez
  • Production Assistant Brandon Stevenson

POST / VFX: Camp Lucky

  • Colorist Neil Anderson
  • Animation Seth Olson
  • Editor Alex Heisterkamp
  • Editor Matt Fritsche
  • Post Production Supervisor Jessica Berry


Sound Mix Scottie Richardson