Lights, Camera, Action: Hall hosts 9th Baseball Film Festival

September 12, 2014

Here’s the dope on the upcoming film festival hosted at the Baseball Hall of Fame from Sept. 19-21. The following events all take place in the Grandstand Theater. Blurbs come from the Hall of Fame press release.

Following a reception at 5 p.m., The festival gets under way with an introductory discussion and opening film– as yet to be determined — at 6:30.

Saturday, September 20

Session 1 — 10 a.m.

Heading for Home
On 16th Street in Indianapolis, Indiana, stands the once proud Bush Stadium, former home to the Indianapolis Indians. Its beautiful art-deco facade has seen its share of history, including the early Negro leagues and eve n a Hollywood film.
When the team moved downtown in 1995, the stadium and field were left vacant and falling into disrepair. Despite the efforts of smaller companies and local government, the stadium was set for demolition again and again. In 2012, a plan was proposed to adapt the stadium for a modern use: housing. So began the first adaptive reuse of a sports facility for housing in American history. Heading for Home tells the story of the stadium and the historical significance of the site for the city of Indianapolis.

Stealing Home
To the bankrupt City of Detroit, it’s a nine-acre abandoned lot. But to generations of baseball fans, it still feels like home. After Tiger Stadium was demolished in 2009, blight sprung up. But a small group of passionate fans stepped up to the plate, chopping down weeds and restoring the field where more than 200 Hall of Famers played our National Pastime. It sounds like a true feel-good story, but city officials want to sell the land. They view these volunteers as trespassers; police have ordered them to leave. But the grounds crew keeps working, tirelessly spending time, energy, and money to preserve the ball field –– and with it, Detroit’s history. Can they save the field? Or will they be thrown out stealing home?

Session 2 — 1:30 p.m.

An E:60 production from ESPN, Perfect explores the history of the 23 perfect games in major league history, headlined by those taking place since 1956. Filled with highlights of the perfect games from the television era, the film includes current interviews with a wide range of well-known hurlers, from Don Larsen to Randy Johnson to David Cone, and takes the viewer inside the mind of the pitcher as he tries to achieve baseball immortality.

Session 3 — 3:30 p.m.

A Ballpark Story
A Ballpark Story follows the behind-the-scenes story of what happens at a major-league ballpark, from the final pitch of one game to the first pitch of the next. Hosted by youth correspondent Meggie Zahneis, the film offers a glimpse of what goes into the process of running Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, everything from cleaning the stadium to the dedication of a statue of Hall of Famer Joe Morgan.

Havana Curveball
Thirteen-year-old Mica is studying for his Bar Mitzvah, the Jewish coming of age rite. He takes to heart his Rabbi’s requirement for the adult responsibility to help “heal the world.” Remembering how his grandfather once escaped Nazi persecution and found refuge in Cuba, the boy launches a grand plan to send sports equipment to the poor but baseball-crazed Communist country. When he has assembled a sufficient number of goods, he learns of the U.S. embargo on Cuba, which endangers his dream. During the course of this documentary film, Mica learns that being an adult also means having to fight for one’s dreams. (My note: Here’s a piece I did on the project for the NJ Jewish News a few years ago.)

Session 4 — 7 p.m.

No No: A Dockumentary
On June 12, 1970, Dock Ellis of the Pittsburgh Pirates threw a no-hitter. In 137 years of organized baseball, it’s the only no-hitter tossed by a pitcher under the influence of LSD. While baseball hadn’t fully embraced racial equality, the controversial Ellis was an outspoken leader who lived the expression ‘Black and Beautiful!’ His fearlessness enabled him to become a trailblazer for a new wave of civil rights. After retiring, Dock became just as outspoken about his career-long drug abuse problems. He spent decades as a counselor, helping other addicts in their recoveries. Through intimate stories and a trove of archival footage, No No: A Dockumentary brings Dock’s vibrant life to light, burnishing the legend and revealing the man behind it.

Sunday, September 21

Session 5 — 10 p.m.

Wrigley 100: A Century Celebration
For 100 years, Wrigley Field has showcased the game’s greatest players in America’s most beautiful ballpark. An homage to the beloved ballpark, Wrigley 100 showcases the stories behind the great moments on Chicago’s North Side, as told by the men who made those memories, including Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, Ron Santo, Hank Aaron, Mike Schmidt, and many more. Over the course of its history, Wrigley Field has provided a wonderful mix of history, fun, passion and beauty.

Session 6 — 1 p.m.

Leaving Traces
Inspired by the 25th anniversary of Bull Durham, a team of artists converged on the Durham Bulls Athletic Park to document the legendary minor league team’s 2013 season. Leaving Traces follows the documentarians — including renowned photographers Alec Soth, Hiroshi Watanabe, Hank Willis Thomas, Kate Joyce, Frank Hunter, Leah Sobsey, and Alex Harris, and writer Adam Sobsey — as they confront the challenges of finding something new in a minor league ballpark. While techniques and output vary, this diverse group is united by baseball’s (and photography’s) unique experience with time. The slow, measured movements often hide the roiling drama beneath. By interweaving stories about process and craft, Leaving Traces evokes baseball’s atmosphere and captures the struggle to make the unseen visible.

Session 7 — 3 p.m.

5 Outs
A historical documentary that profiles the journey of the 2003 Cubs, 5 Outs examines the team from start to finish and explores the franchise’s failure to win its first World Series title in 95 years. The 2003 Championship Series saw the Cubs holding a 3-0 lead in the 8th inning of Game 6, when chaos broke lose, ignited by an infamous foul ball incident. The incident changed the landscape of Chicago baseball forever, affecting those in and outside of the baseball community. Voiced by Golden Globe and Emmy nominee William Petersen, the documentary features interviews with players who had never before spoken about the topic. Among others, Moises Alou, Dusty Baker, and Kerry Wood explore the impact the team had on a city thirsting for a world championship.

Festival Wrap-Up
4:30 p.m.

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