Greetings again from the darkness. Our world is filled with anger and frustration and evil, and should we ever doubt this, a simple click over to the local or national news will prove it so. Even the non-terrorist majority are simply too busy or self-absorbed to show kindness or respect. Subways are jammed with people glued to their smart phones, oblivious to the sea of real humans. Highways are real world video games of dodging the closest road rager. A trip to the shopping mall reveals those too self-centered to simply hold open a door or allow a pedestrian to calmly cross the parking lot. What we need is a Superhero … and in November 2013, we got just that.
Director Dana Nachman chronicles the story of young Miles Scott from Tulelake, California. As a toddler, Miles was diagnosed with Leukemia and went through chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. By age 5, he was on the road to recovery and that’s when the Make-A-Wish foundation became involved. It turns out Miles’ greatest wish was to be Batman for a day. And this is where the documentary takes an unexpected turn.
Nachman chooses not to focus on Miles’ illness, but rather on the heroic efforts of Make-A-Wish director Patricia Wilson and her team to make this wish come true for him. This is not the story of gravely ill little boy, but rather it’s the piecing together of a global phenomenon. A challenging wish transformed into a worldwide viral event constructed by countless volunteers, the San Francisco Chief of Police, the Mayor of San Francisco, 25,000 people lining the streets, and millions more watching via social media.
Ms. Wilson’s incredible “can-do” attitude and boundless positive energy are complimented by Eric Johnston, an inventor and stuntman, who dives headfirst into his role as Batman and mentor to Miles the Batkid. Others key to the event were Mike Jutan who stepped into the role of The Penguin, Oscar winning composer Hans Zimmer, and even Lou Seal, the mascot of the San Francisco Giants. Are you starting to get the idea? See, it’s the masses that made this happen … the San Francisco Opera contributed costume work, and even a young boy donated the Batsuit for Batkid – it was homemade! So many offers of help came in that a portion of San Francisco was turned into Gotham City for a day so that Batman and Batkid could fight crime together. Words fail me as it’s an emotional stunner to see this unfold.
Of course the power of social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc) is on full display here – even President Obama tweeted about Batkid! However, what is most awe-inspiring is the massive display of kindness and generosity from so many strangers from so many various backgrounds. As with everything these days, there were critics. A few wailed about the cost to the city, while others expressed outright disgust that such hoopla was for one kid, rather than hundreds. A generous donor made the city whole by stroking a check, thereby shutting up the first group of complainers. As for the second group, they simply miss the point. It was a-dream-come-true for one boy robbed of childhood years by a cruel disease, and beyond that, it provided a respite from “bad news” and allowed the reporting of “good news”. It was also a much needed reminder that the human spirit is alive and that being kind and courteous is contagious, and creates a virus of feel good and do good.
Some may describe this as a promotional film for the Make A Wish foundation, but it might better be described as a film that promotes the positive impact people can have when they unite for a worthy cause. This wasn’t about politics, race relations, or financial turmoil … it was about people doing something nice for others, and discovering the payback is pure joy. Batkid was the hero we deserved and the one we needed.
Own “Batkid Begins” on DVD on October 6.