Camp Lucky’s Sai Selvarajan Directs Short Film “We Clap For Airballs” — A Queer Love Letter to Basketball

Written by Camp Lucky

Directed by Camp Lucky’s Sai Selvarajan, the short film “We Clap For Airballs” explores the transformative impact of Swish, Chicago’s first QTBIPOC-centered basketball meet-up, highlighting the deep sense of healing and unity it has brought to the community. The film, which is currently enjoying its festival run, premiered in the latest issue of Condé Nast’s THEM magazine and is now available to view on YouTube. Winner of the Best Documentary 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, the 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 traveled 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.


“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.”


As no stranger to the filmmaking world, Sai has 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 Selvrajan, and her passion for sport, leading her to become the most unlikely of basketball enthusiasts.



Directed by: Sai Selvarajan

Executive Producer: Brandon Tapp

Producers: Teresa Cameron, Lisa Kleypas, Shannon Leahy

Director of Photography: Ivy Chiu 

Drone and Steady Cam: Igor Cedeno

Photographer:  Laidric Stevenson

Gaffer: Steve Semkiw

Location Sound: Danny Rodriguez 

Production Assistant: Brandon Stevenson 

Original Score: Cleod9

Collage Artist Alyssa Barnes  

“Be” Composed and Performed by Maria Munn 

“Natural Disaster” Composed and Performed by SOPHIETHEHOMIE

Sound Mix: Scottie Richardson

Color Correction: Neil Anderson 

Animation: Seth Olson

Edited by: Alex Heisterkamp 

Assistant Editor:  Matt Fritsche

Post-Production Supervisor: Jessica Berry 


Special Thanks:

Tammie Kleinmann, Tim Nagle, Jeff Bednarz, Sathyanarayana Raju, Camp Lucky Family

City of Chicago, Jessie Nagel, Ian McLeod, Amanda Selvarajan, Lisa Normand, Everyone at SWISH and the Chicago Bulls

About the author

Camp Lucky

Camp Lucky is a team of experienced artists and producers who create live action production, editorial, design, animation, visual effects, color and audio. We help clients bring stories to audiences on any screen or proverbial campfire. Our goal is to make a lasting impression with integrity, creativity, and quality, but also through our time together.