A film documenting a basketball fan’s search for the NBA equivalent of Bigfoot has won the fan-favourite award at the Vancouver International Film Festival. Finding Big Country, Kathleen S. Jayme’s documentary about her search for former Vancouver Grizzlies star Bryant (Big Country) Reeves, was selected for the Super Channel People’s Choice Award as VIFF 2018 ended its run Friday night at The Centre for the Performing Arts in Vancouver.
The story is about Jayme’s interest in Reeves, who was the first-round draft pick and early superstar for the fledgling Grizzlies, a team that never was very good but was eventually turned over to Memphis after the 2000-2001 season. The big man from small-town Arkansas has been off the public radar since his NBA career ended when the team left town.
“I’ve always wanted to make a documentary about the Vancouver Grizzlies and, specifically, Bryant Reeves,” Jayme said. “It was one of the projects I knew I wanted to make in my career, and one of the stories I wanted to tell. I’m just super-stoked to share this story.”
In her acceptance speech at the closing Gala of the VIFF 2018, Jayme said that hopefully, the documentary helps get the Grizzlies back to Vancouver.
The Vancouver based Fil-Canadian is no stranger to film festivals and awards. Jayme was at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015, presenting a short film she made on the long-term effects of tourism in tropical countries. Her film, Paradise Island, was accepted into the Short Film Corner at Cannes, a program pointed as a stepping stone for films selected by international festivals.
The film focuses on the lives of a group of children who craft sand sculptures for cash in Boracay, a small island in the Philippines that Jayme’s family regularly visited since she was three years old. Through the children, Jayme tells a story about the impact tourism has on the islanders’ lives and habitat.
“As tourists, we feel like we’ve earned this time to do whatever we want,” Jayme said. “I never cared about what was going on. I would go there, relax and then leave the next day without thinking about anything, really.” On her visit in 2011, she met the young subjects of her film. They had been making sandcastles with spoons and sticks, then asking for donations from tourists. The money bought them food and necessities, but to get that money they had to skip school, and for the first time, she said she felt very uncomfortable about being there.
She began to notice the effect of years of tourism on Boracay, and she noticed how it got more polluted and crowded every year. Angry about the situation, she set out to “show people a side of paradise they had never seen before.” When she started filming, however, she realized the realities of life on the island. Some locals were making money from the tourism industry, feeding their families, and putting their children into school. Yet some children were skipping school and relying on tourists for their livelihood. Jayme said the film reminds tourists to be mindful when they travel, and that these are actually people’s homes.
The 25-minute short is the first Jayme made since graduating from UBC’s film school in 2011, and now with her VIFF 2018 win, she is now one of the most recognizable film makers in the city, and one the Filipino community is proud of.
Jayme comes from a family of filmmakers. Her great uncle, Cirio Santiago, was a director and producer and her lolo Dan (Danilo Santiago) was the youngest director in the Philippines during his time. Their father, Ciriaco Santiago, founded Premiere Productions. Jayme comes from a family of artists which includes dancer Stephanie Amurao from Richmond, who performed at the opening ceremony of the Cannes that year.
The film fest wrapped up Friday night, but organizers have announced a VIFF Repeats series, offering 20 favourites from the annual event, from Oct. 13 to 19. Finding Big Country gets its encore on Tuesday, Oct. 16, at 8:30 p.m. at Vancity Theatre.