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Cinema Village

SPACEMAN Director BRETT RAPKIN

Played August 26th-September 1st
In 2003, I directed a documentary about Bill “Spaceman” Lee, which followed him to Cuba for a week and showed him barnstorming the country, playing ball at age 57 against a bunch of Cuban legends. Along the way he also told the story of his life and colorful career. When the film was edited, I always got chills watching Bill talk about the transition from professional baseball star, to unemployed, to accepting that he could play in a senior league. He would say, “I never quit playing,” as if it was never even a consideration…because it wasn’t.

His was such a punk rock anti-establishment perspective. I wanted to dig deep into that turning point in his life and surrender of ego that has allowed him to play even now as he approaches seventy. I wanted to recreate the actual arguments with managers, the conversations with friends and family, and the ultimate triumph.

SPACEMAN is a dark comedy biopic with sports as the setting. It ranges from some pretty silly and fun physical comedy to heartfelt moments that show a man dealing with his identity and familial struggles. Films that have any sports in them tend to get shoved into the “sports” genre, but we think this story is much more universal.

Some people know Bill as an eccentric druggie pitcher from the 70’s with a cool nickname, but he is so much more than that. There is a character in mythology known as the “Holy Fool.” It is someone who everyone writes off as foolish, but it turns out he is the smartest of them all and often the most genuine. Bill is the “holy fool” of baseball – he is a product of the 60's who was actually far more intelligent than he was eccentric. He got the nickname “Spaceman” because he was talking about the space program in the locker room when we landed on the moon. He was talking about the environment, yoga, and organic food far before it was fashionable to do so. Baseball locker rooms are typically not the setting for much intellectual discourse.

Josh’s athleticism, genuine charm, and range make him perfect for this role. We also have a supporting cast that’s a combination of incredible actors including W. Earl Brown, Sterling K. Brown, Caroline Aaron, Winter Ave Zoli, Ernie Hudson, and a ton of others. Everyone involved took part because they loved the script; I think they could really feel the love we had put into it.

I hope this movie leaves people entertained first and foremost. So many current films are either sequels or genre movies, and I understand why given the marketplace, but this film is truly original and a throwback to the kinds of movies that used to get made.

SPACEMAN is the story of a man reinventing himself and I think its moral is universal: life is a personal experience and we need to tune out the crowd and define what we want our lives to be for ourselves. On a personal level, I hope that our making this film inspires those who have a vision to start something, whether it be a movie, a novel, or a rose garden. No one asked us to make a film; we just did it.

-Brett Rapkin