Tuesday, June 17, 2008

'SOCKO!' Variety rave for Holy Land Hardball!

Variety, the show business Bible, has reviewed Holy Land Hardball, the documentary about the opening of the Israel Baseball League-- and they love it!

Just read these excerpts from Eddie Cockrell's review:

"You don't have to be Jewish or understand a box score to embrace the crowd-pleasing national-pastime docu 'Holy Land Hardball.' Saga of an entrepreneur who muscled the improbable Israel Baseball League into existence is at once a celebration of Americana and a cautionary fable on the challenges of cultural hegemony that, as a bonus, plays socko in the cheap seats. Distribs will bill it, auds will come.

"Enterprise is the brainchild of Massachusetts bakery owner Larry Baras, whose 'Unholey Bagel' (which comes pre-stuffed with cream cheese) led to a financial windfall undone by a 2004 crisis of faith. Pic's overarching tone is summed up by a briefly glimpsed T-shirt slogan: 'Baseball in Israel? Vy not!'

"...Open tryouts yield a field of dreamers. Eric Holtz, player-coach of the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, is a 41-year-old, Bronx-raised father of three whose long-suffering wife tolerates his Peter Panning. He's also the resident provocateur, telling one teammate, "The league just called, you've been traded to Egypt."

"Long-haired, 27-year-old heartthrob Nathan Israel Bloomberg "Nate" Fish is plucked from DJing to realize his dream for the Tel Aviv Lightning, while 22-year-old African-American Willis Bumphus, puzzled when his preacher told him he'd one day play in front of "God's people," now realizes he'll do just that for the Petach Tikvah Pioneers.

"Faced with a formidable marketing challenge, Baras seems to be making steady headway until a last-minute blizzard of snafus: The league's baseballs are held up in customs, a player recruited from the Dominican Republic may be Muslim and thus ineligible, and so on. The eventual onfield product has, to quote (Dan) Duquette's memorable malapropism, 'hoot-spa'...

"Co-helmers Brett Rapkin and Erik Kesten... are clearly a pair of sports nuts... Their breezy approach to this subject can't quite hide an ingrained streak of benevolent imperialism. As someone explains, with no apparent irony, 'a country with all of these traditions could use one more.'

"Tech package is pro."

Holy Land Hardball premieres this week at the AFI SilverDocs Film Festival in Silver Spring, Maryland. Read the comple VAriety review here.

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