Back in 2007, a documentary called Dear Zachary premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival. Directed by Kurt Kuenne, the film tracked the sickening story of a doomed romance Kurt's best friend Andrew had found himself in, and how things quickly spiraled out of control to the point where multiple people -- including Andrew and the son he never got to meet -- wound up dead. I was at the premiere of this film in 2007, unaware of its story, and that screening will forever go down as one of the most emotionally devastating of my life. I'm talking tears, sobbing and having to sit alongside Andrew's friends and family through all of it was an experience I value as a fan of movies, but one I really don't want to go through again.
Eight years later in the very same theater where I watched Dear Zachary, I was back again for another documentary Kuenne was involved with -- this time as a cowriter and editor on Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World. You remember Batkid, right? Who doesn't remember Batkid? His story took the world by storm back in November 2013 when the city of San Francisco transformed into Gotham City in order to grant the wish of a little boy named Miles Scott who'd been battling cancer.
Scott's story quickly went viral, and Batkid's day -- which involved racing around the streets of Gotham (aka San Fran) alongside Batman on missions to stop the evildoings of villains like the Riddler and the Penguin -- was all anyone could talk about. The documentary, directed by Dana Nachman, tracks Batkid's origin story from the time he's diagnosed with leukemia to the day he became the most popular little boy in the world.
What's fun about the film is that it's sort of separated into two halves, with the first revealing backstory (most of which is done through inventive comic book animation) and the second following Batkid and his family on the day his wish was granted. We meet everyone from the folks at the Make-A-Wish foundation who worked tirelessly to execute the wish to the government officials in San Francisco who assisted in making it all run smoothly.
It's cute and hectic -- and you salute the folks who made this happen for the kid -- but what really elevates the entire story is its focus on the relationship between Batkid and the guy who played Batman, E.J. Johnston. There's a whole backstory there that you don't know; events that took place away from the Batkid hashtags -- and as you're drawn more and more into Miles Scott's incredible day, something begins to happen inside that's inexplicable.
Let's just say it feels good. Really good.
And we need it. In an age where news reports thrive on the awful things happening around the world, to watch thousands upon thousands of strangers come together to support one kid's wish is an experience you need and one you'll cherish. For me, after Dear Zachary it was great to watch Kurt Kuenne work on a film where a small child triumphs over adversity. A story where people rally around a good cause; one that promotes optimism and positivity. Kindness over outrage.
It's films like Batkid Begins that remind you it's okay to smile. It's okay to support each other; to take off work or skip school for a day in order to believe in something that has a happy ending. Eight years later, I once again found myself crying at the end of a Kurt Kuenne movie, but this time it was a good cry. A proud cry. The kind of cry we should all experience more often.
Pictured above: The entire Batkid Begins team celebrates following the film's world premiere at the 2015 Slamdance Film Festival.
Release Info: As of this writing, Batkid Begins does not have a distribution deal. However, Julia Roberts has optioned the rights to remake the doc as a narrative film that she will produce and star in. While she hasn't revealed who she's playing, we're guessing it'll be Make-A-Wish executive director Patricia Wilson (pictured above at the far right in the black-and-white dress).