Batkid Begins

Posted on July 8, 2015 at 5:00 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
Copyright 2015 Warner Brothers
Copyright 2015 Warner Brothers

Children with cancer learn two things, we hear in this documentary about a boy who is being treated for leukemia. They learn how to fight. And, because they are surrounded by caregivers, they learn compassion.

When he was two, Miles crawled into bed with his parents, and they felt a lump under his jaw. It was cancer. As he endured treatment, he became fascinated with the old Adam West “Batman” series. He loved seeing Batman and Robin fight for justice. He loved the way they helped people in need. And he loved their costumes. Miles was a kid who really loved to dress up, especially in clothes that made him feel strong and powerful. And so, when he was five and feeling better, it was time for him to get a special treat from the Make-a-Wish people in San Francisco, the city closest to his home. Their goal was to do something that would “give him a bit of his childhood back.” Kids who have seen more pain, danger, fear, and loss than most adults can handle are given a chance to have a dream come true.  Some want to meet a celebrity or go to Disney World.  Miles wanted to be Batman.  And San Francisco Make-A-Wish chapter head Patricia Wilson was determined to make that happen.

We get to see a glimpse of a girl whose wish was to be a pop star.  Wilson arranged for about 200 people to be there to cheer her on.  She figured the same size crowd for Miles.  But something about the story caught on.  It captured the attention of the city and then the world.  They turned San Francisco into Gotham.  The real-life mayor and police chief taped messages ahead of time that would explain what kind of help they needed from Miles.  People flew in to cheer Miles on in person.  “Batman Begins” composer Hans Zimmer wrote him a special theme.  President Obama sent a Vine with his thanks.  Two billion people tuned in to be a part of it.  The idea of a simple act of kindness for a kid who wanted to be a superhero made a lot of people feel good about the world for a little while.  Everybody got a bit of childhood back, not because of what they got but because of what they gave.

Filmmaker Dana Nachman, who made the documentary after the story was over, shows us how it all came together.  Wilson called Eric Johnston, who is in real life pretty close to Batman without the anguish or the Wayne millions.  He is a stuntman and an inventor.  One of the sweetest parts of the film is the way he adores his wife, who gallantly volunteered to be the damsel in distress whose rescue would be the first of three deeds for Johnston as Batman and Miles as Batkid.  Then they would capture the Riddler in the midst of a bank robbery and rescue San Francisco Giants mascot Lou Seal, who had been taken hostage by The Penguin (Mike Jutan).  Creating each of these adventures, from the casting to the costumes, introduces us to some wonderful characters.  I especially loved the opera’s costume department, who pitched in on their own time to make sure the characters would look real.  Miles’ Batkid costume was donated by another child, whose father had created the costume for him.  Johnston took Miles to a rehearsal space for acrobats to get him comfortable with some simple stunts.  The manager had the brilliant idea of having all the regulars show up in superhero costumes.  Why wouldn’t Wonder Woman and The Flash come to the same place to work out and perfect their skills when they were not fighting crime?

She also shows us how the day unfolded, the plans that worked and the ones that didn’t.  Lou Seal almost didn’t make it because the crowds had become so massive he couldn’t get through.  And of course all day there were adjustments based on how Miles was doing.  At the beginning and end of the film we see an interview with Miles and his family.  Was it what they expected?  Miles’ parents both say, reasonably, that they were stunned and overwhelmed by how gigantic it all became. But Miles, taking it all in stride, just says, yep.  And there it is.  What gives him a piece of his childhood back is having something come together just the way he thought it should.  Making that happen, being a part of it, even seeing it in the film and cheering him on, is a reminder of how much magic we can create, and how important it is that we try.

Parents should know that this is a documentary about a child who is being treated for cancer and a program that provides services and special treats for critically ill children and their families.

Family discussion: What wish would you like to help come true? Why do sick kids learn more about compassion than kids who are not sick?

If you like this, try: the Adam West “Batman” series and the PBS documentary about cancer, “The Emperor of all Maladies”

Related Tags:

 

Documentary Movies -- format Stories About Kids

Interview: Dana Nachman of “Batkid Begins”

Posted on July 6, 2015 at 3:37 pm

Copyright 2015 Warner Brothers
Copyright 2015 Warner Brothers

Dana Nachman is the director of the heartwarming documentary “Batkid Begins.” She talked to me about how one five-year-old cancer survivor’s Make a Wish story captivated the entire world.

At the screening I attended there was audible weeping.

I also hear there is a lot of laughter also and cheering sometimes when people see the film. So I hope that was all there too.

It definitely was, especially when the family is asked if this is what they expected and the parents are stunned and the kid casually says yes.

I love that.

Me, too. So tell me how you got involved.

I had heard about it actually after the fact and I was lucky enough to get a meeting with the Make A Wish Foundation and we actually meet for two and a half hours. We totally hit it off. But my main question I had for them was what they intended to happen.
They said they wanted about 200 people to show up. I thought that that was such an amazing thing that like something could balloon really out of nowhere. They wanted 200 people to come support a child and then 25,000 people showed up and 2 billion people followed it online. So I really wanted to tell that story of how that happened, basically a memento forever for San Francisco and everybody else.

Do you think that this story is very specific to San Francisco?

Certainly I consider San Francisco one of the main characters of the movie because I think there is something about the whimsicality of San Francisco that enables this to happen. But I think it’s a very human story that any community can relate to. I think there is something a little different about San Francisco, but I think it’s a universal story for sure.

San Francisco does seem to be the kind of city where if you need a superhero costume it would be easy to find.

The people I interviewed from the San Francisco Chronicles said Halloween is kind of a city-wide holiday. So if you ask people to dress up in costume, they’re there.

Those thousands of people — were they showing up for Miles or for themselves?

I’m speaking from my own personal perspective. Whether I work at a food bank and whatever else we do and you think you’re going into benefit others but really when you leave there usually you feel better about yourself you know. And so I think that this day was very emblematic of that concept of that volunteerism and community service really does end up helping you as much as if not more than the person you’re trying to help. There are many people that said it was the best day of their lives, like bar none the best day of their lives. I think just the concept of going out there for no other reason than just trying to cheer a little boy on was enough for people to just feel good.

What is the fascination with superheroes?

The concept of a superhero is something that everybody relates to. Most of us wanted to be some kind of superhero when we were little. At some point you lose track of those fantasies that you had as a young person. This enabled adults to come out and experience that childlike wonder and excitement for Miles but then also for themselves.

How is Miles doing?

He’s great. He’s in remission. He just got through with Little League and he’s a great kid. He’s home for the summer. He’s going to have a nice relaxing summer. His family just bought their first house. He’s awesome.

You had some amazing characters in this movie and I wanted to ask you about Eric, who plays Batman and organized the feats. He is really extraordinary.

You know I had a list of people to call to see if they wanted to participate in the film and I actually called him last because I was a little intimidated by him which is funny because he is actually the most amazing person and you never should be intimidated by him. But he does do everything. You know my son was talking to him about trying to invent a hovercraft or something and he was like you can invent anything you want, anytime you want you just have to say you want to do it. And that’s I think the way that he goes about the world. He’s this magnetic personality that just wants to do good, live life to the fullest. He an amazing person, really. I think you could relate to Nick, Miles’ dad as a father what he went through and Natalie as a mother and what she went through. And then you can relate to Eric, who is like an older brother to Miles now. And I think it’s probably his human connections we can make as the audience that draws us into the story more. And he’s so infatuated with his wife. It’s so cute.

How do you as a filmmaker tell the story in a way that is going to still surprise people and not repeat what they already know?

I definitely thought about that. But I also realized that what people had in terms of information on the day was really like 140 characters on Twitter or a Facebook post or a photo here and there. Or you know something on the news that was probably 90 seconds. As I came to it I realized that not one of the people that participated in the day of knew everything else that was happening at the same time they were so busy making this happen. For instance nobody had ever met the couple that flew from Akron Ohio or LA for the day. Nobody met them, nobody had, we unearthed the Uber driver that saved Lou Seal before he even got kidnapped by the Penguin. The circus center scene which I think is one of the funniest scenes of the film — there were no cameras there except for the family shot home video of it and that was when he trained to become a superhero. I think also the 25,000 people who were there was such a mob scene. Most people only went to one or maybe two of the capers. So nobody really saw the whole thing. So you have to realize and kind of put it together what exactly happened on that day. I realized that there wasn’t anybody except EJ and Miles who had been at everything. So I thought that it actually is good whenever the people in the film watch and say oh I didn’t know that person, I didn’t know that happened. I’m really like pleased about that.

How did the Make a Wish people feel when it got world attention?

Their goal is just to make the wish the best it could possibly be. So all the hoopla that was around that kid that day wasn’t what they were intending. They just wanted to make sure it was a good day for Miles. They kind of figured that 200 people really was the same in terms of Miles’ eyes and his perspective. So they just wanted it to be a great day for Miles. You know I’ve heard a lot of Interviewers ask Patricia at Make A Wish if this has changed what kids want. And she said not really because most of the kids, a vast majority of the wishers are private wishes. They don’t ask for things that are public at all. They do more than 370 wishes a year. So I think when there is one that kind of lends itself to creativity they kind of jump on it because they are just those kind of people who make it cooler. They have these amazing volunteers just like EJ and all the rest of them who go in there just wanting you know literally to be the wish of a lifetime for every kid.

Why did it go viral?

My opinion on it is there was kind of this perfect storm and the main element of it was that it was so authentic. They weren’t trying to make it go viral. I think so many people try to make things go viral and that doesn’t really work. It has to hit a nerve and that’s what really happened with this. They weren’t asking for donations. They weren’t really asking for anything other than come cheer on this little boy either virtually or in person, and just experience the wonder of his wish.

Related Tags:

 

Directors Documentary Interview
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik