'Batkid' harnesses the power of a documentary

Our cherished institutions are failing us. Police, dedicated to protect and serve, are accused of killing our citizens. Sexual abuse revelations rock our churches.

These are not the best of times for us. And they are not the worst.

I know this because I have seen the documentary "Batkid Begins."

I am not suggesting that an 87-minute movie about a 5-year-old cancer patient's wish to be Batman for a day can possibly balance the scales of justice in our troubled world.

But I do say Dana Nachman's movie arms us all with a powerful weapon we can use to alter the time we live in; to alter it for the good.

That weapon is a four-letter word: hope.

Not some abstract, nebulous, rhetorical concept, but a physical, empirical, tangible thing you can touch, see and hear.

That hope comes from witnessing how a little boy's dream - to become a superhero so he can help others - inspires people around the world to rally around him.

"Batkid" is no syrupy valentine to the angels of our better natures.

It shows our better natures. We can see them right there on the silver screen.

I saw "Batkid" on its maiden Chicago showing Sunday night at the Chicago Critics Film Festival at the Music Box Theatre. I will see it again when and if it gets released to theaters in our market. (So far, no opening date.)

If you have the opportunity to see "Batkid," I encourage you to buy a ticket. It won't change our world. But it could change us.

Then we can improve the world.

Batman would like that.

<b>Film critics notebook:</b>

The monthlong tribute to cinematic genius Orson Welles, who spent a portion of his youth in Woodstock, ramps up to full speed this weekend at the Woodstock Theatre. Go to for a schedule.

On Friday, May 8, the opening night gala begins at 9 p.m. after a 7 p.m. screening of "The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles."

On Saturday, May 9, former Chicago Reader film critic, Welles scholar and author Jonathan Rosenbaum gives an overview of Welles' impact on culture. Rosenbaum will be joined by Academy Award winner Chuck Workman for a question-and-answer session afterward.

Next weekend, Welles' legendary Halloween broadcast "The War of the Worlds" takes center stage.

No matter if you're a rocker or a roller, you can join Dann & Raymond's Movie Club at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 14, at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, 500 N. Dunton Ave., for "The Great Rock'n' Roll Movies" featuring clips from "Blackboard Jungle" plus 13 more. Free admission!

The After Hours Film Society presents "Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem," a divorce-centered drama set in present-day Israel, at 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 11, at the Tivoli Theatre, 5021 Highland Ave., Downers Grove. Go to for tickets. $10 general admission; $6 members.

The Tivoli Theatre will come alive with "The Sound of Music" as a Mother's Day weekend special at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 8, then at 12:30 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 9, and Sunday, May 10. Admission costs $4 before 6 p.m., $5 after 6 p.m. Go to

"Mamma Mia!" will be another Mother's Day special at noon on Sunday, May 10, at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. Tickets cost $12. Go to for details.

<b>No more trailer trash!</b>

Dear Dann: I appreciated your article on trailers and how they have become mini-movies that spoil plots. I actually go late into the theater or just wait for the DVD so I don't have to sit and endure 20 minutes of spoiler-trailers. Studios don't get it. When waiting to see "The Sorcerer" (directed by William Friedkin) at a film fest, an impromptu discussion on trailers drew a number of people to comment. I know I'm not alone in the disdain for the mini-movies they call trailers. - Richard Bolesta

Dear Dann: Trailer revelations, unfortunately, are inevitable and reflect the laziness of producers trying to manipulate a fickle public. Aside from the Moondog Incident those many years ago, I think that was just a blip on the radar. The Disney Machine will not allow spoilers to escape and will do it with much more efficiency than Lucasfilm and Marvel Comics, especially now that they own both.

Witness what Disney did with J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" reboot. Most fanboys and fanblogs "knew" that Benedict Cumberbatch was playing Khan but Disney still made the effort to "keep it a secret." The challenge now is that the general public has been conditioned to look for the M. Night Shyamalan twist in everything and writers-directors-producers have been lazily incorporating these plot elements in their works for years in almost ex machina-like fashion.

My point is this: The "I Am Your Father!" revelation in "The Empire Strikes Back" was revolutionary; the "Luke-Leia" sibling revelation in "Jedi" really didn't have the same impact because of the time lag between films and because Lucas already had paired up Leia with Han anyway as Luke went off to do his Jedi stuff.

Still, it's becoming harder and harder to shock people who are becoming desensitized to more aberrant forms of violence and more outlandish stunt work. So, I'm with your daughter. Feel free to watch the trailers. It's highly unlikely Disney will let anything slip … unless they really want to goose publicity for this film series among all the noise that distracts the silly public. - Rick Dana Barlow.

Dear Dann: I support you in your defense of not watching the "Star Wars" trailer. It is almost impossible not to see it since they are force feeding the consumers on every social media platform. But since movie trailers have spoiled more movies by revealing too much or the actual ending, I try and not pay attention to trailers unless I am interested in the subject matter.

"Star Wars" is not something that interests me. I lost the force after ewoks were introduced in "Return of the Jedi." Also, HBO started the "making of" series about 20 years ago that went behind the making of the next big movie release.

Unfortunately, all it did was take more magic out of seeing the film. I go to movies as an escape of sorts. Once you enter into a theater, you get to see a movie and if is a great movie with inhuman feats of strength, it leaves you with "how did they do that?" feeling.

Now, how they did the movie magic is happily displayed on the Web or your local entertainment channel, which ruins the whole experience of seeing the film.

Remember the good old days when film makers kept their secrets and left everyone guessing how things were made? - Tom Egan, Bartlett

<i>Film Critic Dann Gire's column runs Friday in Time out!</i>

The optimistic documentary “Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World” is just what our troubled society needs now.
A rare publicity photo of former Woodstock resident Orson Welles from “The Fountain of Youth,” a TV pilot he directed and starred in for Desilu Productions. Welles is the subject of a monthlong festival in Woodstock.
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