The last of my Sundance doc profiles before the New Year: Jeffrey Radice’s US Documentary Competition title NO NO: A DOCKUMENTARY, a tribute to the infamous baseball pitcher Dock Ellis.
Sundance Program Description:
The story of the pitcher who threw a no-hitter while tripping on acid — known by fans and nonfans alike — has become emblematic of professional baseball’s excess in the 1970s. However, that pitcher, Dock Ellis, had a career and a life that transcended one use of LSD.
During a time when the insular world of baseball was clashing with the world outside, Ellis was widely known as one of the most unabashedly black baseball players ever. Nearly suspended for wearing curlers in his hair and refusing to apologize for or moderate his aggressive behavior, Ellis used drugs to hide his crippling fear of failure.
NO NO: A DOCKUMENTARY provides the backstory to an outrageous anecdote by presenting the full life — warts and all — of a unique baseball player and human being. From Jackie Robinson to Donald Hall, Ron Howard, and others, Dock Ellis touched the lives of many people, as told in this surprising story of redemption.
Radice makes his directorial debut with this project, but has been producing or executive producing shorts for several years, including two Sundance alums, Scott Calonico’s LSD A GO GO (2004) and THE KING AND DICK (2003), both focused on drug themes – the CIA’s experimentation with LSD in the 1950s and Elvis’ advice to Nixon on the war on drugs, respectively.
Why You Should Watch:
Ellis, who passed away in 2008 and appears extensively here in fantastic period footage and interviews, is an appealing, outspoken, and unique figure, well-deserving of a broader appreciation of his life and career than one simple drug story. Radice gives him his due here, fleshing out his accomplishments and failings alike, and making a strong argument about the significant impact his no-holds-barred personality and penchant for breaking the rules had on the public and professional perception of baseball players of color in the late 1960s and 1970s.
For more information, visit the film’s website and Facebook page and website. Check out Radice’s Indiewire filmmaker interview. Consider supporting the doc’s $15,000 Center for Independent Documentary crowdfunding campaign – for festival expenses like publicity and travel – before January 20. Should it become available, I’ll also link to his Meet the Artist Sundance video profile. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.
To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance filmmaker class of 2014 Twitter list.