Sunday, October 21, 2012

Look, Ma -- one hand! Franklin Martin's LONG SHOT: THE KEVIN LAUE STORY

If you follow sports extensively and alertly, as I do not, you may have already heard of a certain young man -- Kevin Laue -- a California boy who plays phenomenal basketball while possessing only one hand. As we learn in this intelligent and moving documentary titled LONG SHOT: THE KEVIN LAUE STORY, Kevin was born with his umbilical cord wrapped not just around his neck (as sometimes happens) but also around his arm, which impeded blood flow and prevented that hand from growing, and may also have saved his life by preventing the cord from choking him.

The film, written, produced and directed by Franklin Martin (shown at left) begins in a cemetery, at the grave of Kevin's father, who almost immediately takes on enor-mous presence -- which only grows throughout the movie as we learn more about the relationship between this father and the son he drove so hard. From an early age, Kevin (on poster, top, and below) was pushed into sports, particularly soccer, which, given his physical condition, made sense, but which he didn't much like. Soon basket-ball became his chosen sport.

We follow along with the boy as he gets through high school, changing schools and coaches so that he can better learn and play, contending with mocking and ridicule, and finally an injury that, occurring as it does just when sports scouts are checking out the top high school players, leaves him unseen in their eyes. (Fouls are called on this kid far too often; it seem as though refs and other players simply don't know how to react to his stump.) His goal? To play Division One College Basketball, which I don't believe any person missing one hand had yet done.

Once Kevin's leg heals, it's off to an eastern military prep school noted for its basketball team and its exceptional coach (at right) who works his boys hard and but also seems to care enough about them to see to it that they get viewed in action by the college scouts. What happens to Kevin in this regard is telling. While it's true that you cannot easily believe, simply on hearsay, how well this kid plays, seeing is, or ought to be, believing. Yet his playing this well in game after game seems not to matter. He's just too different, and the "other," once again, is enough to scare most folk away. College sports are already under a cloud of scandal and don't need more problems. Yet the fear that scouts and coaches seem to have of taking a chance on someone this different seems enough to put off almost every one of them. And it leaves Kevin, and us, not a little disappointed. But, then...

Along the way Kevin also gets to meet ex-President "W", above, and though this thrills him, seeing him meet with an ought-to-be-convicted war criminal did not set my heart aflutter. Probably the biggest thrill here, even for those who may not care much for sports or basketball, is watching Mr. Laue play ball. Its amazing, exciting and inspiring. So's the movie. And when, as we learn more about Kevin's Dad and his relationship to him and how this has changed rather hugely over time (his father died when Kevin was but 10 years old), all this adds another layer of meaning and emotion to the film.

Long Shot -- from Dutchmen Films and running 90 minutes -- opens this coming Friday, October 26, in New York City at the Quad Cinema. I would hope that more playdates around the country will be offered but I can find no mention of them anywhere yet. Eventually, however, a DVD ought to be available, so stick this one on your Netflix or Blockbuster list.

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