Categories: Arts

‘Batkid’ flick kicks off 25th Cinequest fest

Unless you live in an underground lair, you’ve probably heard about the hullaballoo that surrounded 5-year-old cancer survivor Miles Scott, aka Batkid. Thanks to Make-A-Wish Foundation and about 25,000 elated extras, San Francisco was turned into Gotham by the Bay in November 2013 to fulfill Miles’ Batman fantasy.

The new documentary “Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World” captures what happened when a kid with cancer got some awesome nonprofit fairy godparents who staged a city-wide bat-caper that became a worldwide phenomenon.

“It snowballed,” says director Dana Nachman. “San Francisco is an amazing city. The people are whimsical. They like to dress up, they like superheroes. And it's such a wired city — everybody there had Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and smart phones. It was a perfect combination.”

It's a no-brainer that the documentary opens Silicon Valley’s 25th annual Cinequest Film Festival on Tuesday in San Jose. (The 13-day event features nearly 100 premieres from 50 countries).

Nachman, a Bay Area filmmaker whose previous documentaries concern heavy topics like a broken criminal justice system ( “Witch Hunt”) and victims of terrorism (“Love, Hate Love”), is happy to be bringing her first feel-good documentary to her “hometown crowd.”

One of the real-life superheroes of the film is Patricia Wilson, executive director of Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area. She was the hardworking and increasingly incredulous go-getter whose “let’s put on show” initiative set the ball rolling. Wilson asked for 200 volunteers to line a city street and cheer for Miles as he rode by in a borrowed Lamborghini with a Batman logo on the hood.

Nachman recalls thinking, “I want to tell the story: How does it go from 200 people to 25,000 people on the ground and 2 billion online?”

In the latest chapter of this improbable, feel-good snowball, Julia Roberts just announced her intention to star in and produce the feature-film remake of “Batkid,” with Nachman executive producing. While the details have not been released, one imagines Roberts will play Wilson.

By the end of Batkid’s big day, President Barack Obama had sent a video tweet, the Make-A-Wish website crashed from traffic, and people in 117 countries were talking about Miles Scott. Meanwhile, Miles was probably the least surprised of everyone.

“I think a 5-year-old doesn’t know the difference between 200 people and 25,000 people. It's all a lot of people to him,” says Nachman.

IF YOU GO

Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World

Presented by Cinequest Film Festival

Where: California Theatre, 345 S. First St., San Jose

When: 7 p.m. Feb. 24

Tickets: $20 to $50

Contact: (408) 295-3378, www.cinequest.org/film-festival

Select Cinequest highlights

The festival runs Feb. 24 through March 8; tickets to most events are $8 to 11.

Queen and Country: Director John Boorman (“Deliverance,” “Hope and Glory,” “Zardoz”) presents his new film, a semi-autobiographical film about Britain in the early 1950s. [7:30 p.m. Feb. 26, California Theatre, $11]

Lawrence Kasdan: The screenwriter (“Body Heat,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) appears in conversation. [1:30 p.m. Feb. 28, California Theatre]

An Evening with Rosario Dawson: The actress (”Top Five,” “Sin City,” “He Got Game”) singer, comic, philanthropist and activist appears in conversation with Jennifer Siebel Newsom. [7:30 p.m. Feb. 28, California Theatre, $12]

5 to 7: Writer-director Victor Levin (“Mad Men”) and star Alton Yelchin (“Star Trek”) appear at the closing-night screening of the romantic comedy co-starring Olivia Thirlby, Eric Stoltz, Glenn Close and Frank Langella. [6 p.m. March 8, California Theatre, $20-$50]

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