Rock Rubber 45s – An Amazing Bobbito Garcia

This may sound like a strange title for a film that a middle-aged, white woman would rave about … but it is. In fact, this documentary is one of the most personal and authentic pieces of work I’ve seen in a long time. And its filmmaker and star, Bobbito Garcia, is simply amazing.

Bobbito with Christian Pollock and Nona Cruz on Set described Garcia as being best known as the co-host of the groundbreaking ’90s hip-hop radio show, The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show, but that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of his talents or his story. Over the course of his life, Bobbito has been a street basketball legend (at just 5’9”) a hip-hop entrepreneur, the star of Nike’s ‘Freestyle” commercials, a DJ, author, filmmaker, one of the first sneaker designers and promoters, and a humanitarian, collecting and delivering sneakers to kids in need around the world. But he likes to simplify it to, “Basketball’s my life, music’s my life, sneakers is my life.”

Bobbito with Lin-Manuel Miranda

The son of Puerto Rican immigrants, Bobbito was brought up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. His dad was a Latin Jazz musician and his mom a jack of all trades, who did just about every job imaginable to support her kids. In this mostly African American neighborhood, Bobbito embraced both his Latino roots and his neighbors’ basketball mania. There was lots of love and support in his childhood, but also pain, alienation, and brutality, about which he’s very candid.

Bobbito with Rosie Perez

His athletic talents earned him a scholarship to an all-white high school in Lower Merion, a rich suburb of Philadelphia, and then college at Wesleyan University. But it was his determination that saw him through the tough times. Sprinkled throughout the film are funny and revealing anecdotes with everyone from Lin-Manuel Miranda to Rosie Perez to Patti LaBelle, who laughingly takes credit for Bobbito’s success.

Patti LaBelle

The editing of this documentary is a bit of a mash-up. It looks like everything but the kitchen sink was thrown in, from the iconic “burning film” transition to quadruple split screens to out of focus pics and hand-written titles. But, it all works. It adds to the beat, the incessant motion, the noise, and the energy … which is a lot like Bobbito himself.

With Scottie Pippen in Dubai

And yes, the film gets a bit bogged down about two-thirds of the way through, and some judicious cutting might have helped move it along. But that’s a minor complaint. Ultimately, this film and Bobbito’s life is an American success story. It’s about a guy whose smile and sense of self never left him; a man who is tirelessly optimistic, ridiculously talented, and always ahead of his time. 

And it’s a feast for the ears, the eyes, and the soul … especially for an “altacocker” like me.

Rock Rubber 45s opens on Thursday, June 28, at the Metrograph in New York for a one-week run, followed by an extended run at the Maysles Cinema starting on Friday, July 6.  

Top photo and Bobbito on the set by Jon Lopez 

About Paula M. Levine (20 Articles)
Paula is an award-winning writer, producer, and storyteller who has spent over twenty years producing news, feature stories, documentaries, and web content. Since 2014, she has also taught Writing and Media Relations at NYU in their Masters Program in PR and Corporate Communication. In her "copious spare time", she runs, bikes, and swims; and has completed 7 NYC Marathons.