Batkid Doc Begins 25th Cinequest

The silver anniversary edition of San Jose’s Cinequest Film Festival kicked off with a screening of a documentary about San Francisco’s Batkid. Dana Nachman’s Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around The World, the Cinequest Opening Night Film, recounted how Miles Scott’s wish to be Batkid for a day wound up involving everyone from San Francisco Chief of Police Greg Suhr to Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy composer Hans Zimmer.

Nachman wisely avoided structuring the documentary on a “will it happen or won’t it” basis. The Batkid Day happened recently enough that it was highly doubtful audience members could claim either ignorance or forgetfulness. Instead, the director focused on how the process of realizing Miles’ dream brought out people’s generous support, even if it was on a tangential basis. Despite being in the middle of a busy season, the San Francisco Opera Costume Department helped customize a commercial Batman suit and even provided The Penguin outfit. A PR firm for a big software company stepped in to handle the ballooning public relations needs when the Make-A-Wish Foundation PR person started getting overwhelmed. Even the San Francisco police officers who provided security for the event got caught up in the day’s euphoria.

Why did Batkid prove such a worldwide inspiration? Miles was not the first child with a life-threatening disease to be served by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Part of the answer came from seeing what superheroes meant to Miles. That shy little boy’s eyes lit up while watching episodes of the Adam West Batman TV series. Where others saw cheese, this boy might have seen someone without special powers who was still able to fight back against forces that seemed more numerous than him.

Yet what rang true for Miles doesn’t explain why a couple flew in from the East Coast just to cheer on this mini-Caped Crusader. Or why the reporters at the San Francisco Chronicle decided to put out a Gotham City edition of the day’s paper. Nachman’s film didn’t really analyze the motivations of the involved parties or those who saw Batkid’s adventures in person. The closest the viewer got for insight was that so-and-so was a Batman fan or that Person X felt it’d be a nice thing to do for a kid who’d been through a lot.

Sentiment certainly played a part in catching the public fancy. No one except the emotionally dead would begrudge efforts to give a child who’d nearly died a chance to have a small taste of a childhood not dominated by the specter of death. The fun involved in turning San Francisco into Gotham City for a day also can’t be denied.

Perhaps the sheer lack of emotional calculation was what earned Batkid a place in many peoples’ hearts. We unfortunately live in an age where even children can be pawns or perpetrators in garnering public attention. The Make-A-Wish planners originally conceived of Miles’ special day as merely having 200 volunteer spectators at the City Hall event. Even as Batkid started to trend on social media and elsewhere, Nachman’s film showed the Make-A-Wish organizers had little comprehension of the scale of attention towards seeing Miles’ wish come true. But it was seeing Miles’ mid-afternoon exhaustion and semi-comprehension of the events unfolding around him that reminded viewers that the only ulterior motive at play on Batkid Day was giving a special experience to a boy who might have been denied it if his treatment had less positive results.

One of Cinequest’s continuing themes was inspiration. Miles’ simple wish delivered that and more to over a billion people around the world.

Photo courtesy of www.batkidbegins.com and KTF Films

About the Author

I'm a film reviewer for the Beyond Chron blog. Agnes Varda and Hirokazu Kore-eda are among my favorite filmmakers. I occasionally break down and watch a good action film...but don't tell anyone.

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