So I went and watched the Linsanity movie last Thursday at the San Francisco Asian+Asian American film festival (CAAMFEST). I was looking forward to it because the guys who made the documentary were interested in Lin while he was still at Harvard and started filming without knowing Linsanity was going to happen. I went with my fiance and two other couples representing a range of interest (one of my friends who came I don't think pays much attention to Lin or basketball in general). This is the third opening night CAAMFEST movie I've been to but the first time that practically half of the seats were roped off. They roped off the entire middle of the auditorium for VIPs (mostly people connected with the festival or filmmaking I think) which I thought was annoying and inappropriate.
The film uses game footage (from AAU days to the Linsanity run), various interviews, ESPN-type commentary, some footage from following Lin around, and an annoying amount of footage of Lin practicing by himself, often in slow motion without his shirt. The film more or less goes through his career up until the Mavericks game during the Linsanity run. It ends with a postscript that he was signed by the Rockets and shows the Rockets team coming out the player's tunnel. While going through his career, they hit on various topics like being overlooked because he was Asian, learning humility when he injured his leg in high school, the importance of religion, struggles to make it in the NBA, racism and discrimination, etc. ending with a big focus on the Linsanity run.
All in all, I found the film disappointing. It felt like a really long commercial, or a really long movie trailer. The production was slick but didn't go into much depth - it was numbing to watch the steady, rapid pacing and there was like this dramatic movie music throughout. At one point he talks about how much it sucked to feel like the Warriors signed him purely for marketing purposes - a proper documentary should get the audience to feel how painful that was for the subject, but it's just a short little voice over. That's how the whole film feels - very guarded. Even when Lin talks about feeling self-doubt, you don't really get a sense of what that was like.
You also get the sense that the film only reveals what Lin would want to - I'm not sure why this is. Maybe because the filmmakers are really deferential to Lin's wishes, or Lin's cousin oversaw editing, or the filmmakers couldn't get any more material than what Lin has already put out into the public. The main points in the movie will be familiar to most basketball fans and certainly to anyone who's been following Jeremy Lin. And some things get glossed over (like Melo/Knicks drama), partly due to time constraints probably but I'd guess also because Lin doesn't want to go into those things. Lin taped a "thank you for watching, it was great working with these guys" bit for the showing. But one of the filmmakers then said that Lin confessed that at one point he wanted to punch the filmmaker in the face for forcing him to do an interview while he was really struggling. THAT's the side of someone that makes a good documentary - I want to see more of that! Also, for folks who are not religious, the pro-Christianity stuff might get a bit repetitive.
There's definitely some cool stuff in the movie. Seeing athletes as toddlers and kids is always fun, as is seeing Lin play in middle school. There's a bit of candid 'follow-him-around' footage where you realize how young he really is (as you watch him buy a cheesy little rock waterfall from Target). There's lots of cute/funny moments as well (Lin talking about his favorite cartoons, singing karaoke). And probably the most candid scene is when he talks about hearing Kobe say he didn't know who Lin was right before his 38-point Lakers game. Lin knew a reporter would ask after the game, "Do you think Kobe knows who you are now?" Lin thought about replying, "Who's Kobe?" (but then thought, what would Jesus do? And didn't). Also there was a game against the Wizards where John Wall dunked on Lin so he looked for an opportunity to dunk back on Wall, and got the opportunity a few plays later. Unfortunately, these kinds of unguarded moments didn't make it much into the film.
All in all, I'm not sure who would really enjoy this film. I'd guess a lot of devout Christians will enjoy it. Extremely casual fans of basketball may enjoy it (I could tell some people around me hadn't seen the Toronto buzzer-beater before). Basketball fans who don't know much about Lin might like it. For everyone else though, it's probably something to play in the background while you're doing something else. Then again, I watch a lot of movies so maybe my standards are too high.
And in case you're wondering, they're still working on the distribution deal. Anyone else seen it? What did you think of it?
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