Manchild: The Schea Cotton Story – Review.
With some impressive filmmaking and a noble aim to tell the story of a worthy hero, this documentary’s message unfortunately becomes unclear due to lack of variety in sources, and perhaps a neglect of in-depth research.
As someone with a vague understanding of the NBA, I had never heard of Schea Cotton, leading one to believe the subject matter of this documentary to be very niche. Of course, an inspirational story can be applicable to any field, or a compelling drama can equally have wide spread appeal. Unfortunately, this film doesn’t quite reach the mark in either of these areas, so unless you are part of the niche group this film is aimed at, I believe you will find it fairly forgettable, and left with little more information than a quick Wikipedia search will give you.
However, the beginning is very strong. The exposition was clear, the montage quickly switching between action shots and the talking heads was thrilling and fast paced. The original score by Anthony “L’S” Cruz is very cool, and sets up the mood, time and place well. This overlaid the fantastic cinematography of the opening credits, with our story’s hero in black and white and slow motion, and a backdrop of ocean, palm tress and city that sets us clearly in LA. Yet, after 20 minutes in, the film plateaus. It succeeds fully in it’s aim to show us how magnificently talented this young player was, but after that the film’s point is lost.
The long interviewee list of popular American basketball players was impressive, but not entirely necessary. Even to true fans, I can imagine that the excitement of seeing a beloved star wears off after the first minute, and then we are left with too many people offering the same opinion, many with not enough close insight. I would rather have half the celebrities and instead have some controversial opinions, perhaps telling some ugly truths. I am still wondering why he didn’t make it to the NBA!
With so much praise and flattering archival footage, I am dumbfounded as to where his story went wrong. Perhaps that was the point, but from a filmmaking perspective, the story arch doesn’t make sense, there is no climax, no pivotal fight for our hero, no clear enemy. Did he get screwed over by the system? Did he choke under pressure? Did he peak too young? Rather than have the interviewees allude to these scenarios, show me some unflattering footage, or someone who had the power to draft him but didn’t, or someone who didn’t enjoy working with him.
Additionally, I would have loved to have seen some footage of the drafting process that wasn’t action shots. Perhaps this was not available but I do feel that the creators of this documentary did not put enough effort into researching a variety of primary and secondary sources.
The end of the film does come to a good resolve and hints at a nice message. I guess we can gain inspiration here from someone who was able to pick themselves up from a very public and unexpected disappointment, and still go on to live a full and meaningful life. But as someone who doesn’t really understand the gravitas of missing out on the NBA, the take-home was lost on me, thus bringing me back to my point on it being so niche.
Nonetheless, this documentary shows filmmaking potential and I admire it’s aim to shine a spotlight on a forgotten champion, and would be interested to see more work from Eric ‘Ptah’ Herbert.
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