by Sue Ann Rybak
Chestnut Hill Local columnist, author and Germantown resident Susan Karol Martel, 66, felt compelled to fly 3,000 miles to see five-year-old Miles Scott, a.k.a. Batkid, fulfill his dream of becoming a superhero. It is a story told in “Batkid Begins,” an award-winning documentary that chronicles how one child’s wish galvanized millions of people to help turn San Francisco into “Gotham City” (Batman’s home town) in 2013.
The documentary, made by three-time Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Dana Nachman, is being distributed internationally by Warner Brothers. It is currently being shown at the Ritz Five, 214 Walnut St., for one week only as of July 10. Nachman is known for serious documentaries about child molestation allegations (“Witch Hunt”), dangerous chemicals (“The Human Experiment”) and terrorism (“Love Hate Love”).
Miles Scott was an adorable five-year-old cancer patient. After three years of battling leukemia, Miles wanted to be “the real Batman.” So Patricia Wilson, executive director of the Make-a-Wish Foundation of the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, made his wish come true on Nov. 15, 2013.
An estimated 25,000 San Franciscans and tourists (like Martel) thronged to Union Square and City Hall as Miles donned a very cool Batman suit, hopped into a donated Lamborghini Bat-car with his also Bat-suited and gizmo-wielding mentor and stuntman E.J. Johnston. Then, summoned by the chief of police, Batkid foiled the Riddler and the Penguin and rescued a damsel in distress (Johnston’s photogenic wife, Sue), who was tied to cable car tracks.
Martel, a psychotherapist and clinical fellow of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists, said the story is being made into a Hollywood movie starring Julie Roberts, who bought the rights to the story. The Hollywood version will be released sometime next year, but the documentary is currently playing around the country and has garnered mixed reviews. Seventy-seven percent of the reviews have been positive, according to the website rottentomatoes.com.
“’Batkid Begins’ is really a reflection of the way the Make-A-Wish Foundation put this together from start to finish and the spontaneous outpouring of support and money that came in,” Martel said.
“I was pulled to Gotham from Philadelphia after hearing a National Public Radio (NPR) report announcing the event. Three days later, I traded in 24,000 frequent flyer points for a round-trip red eye to San Francisco. After reserving the tickets, I began second-guessing my decision. My partner and I were saving those frequent flyer points for ‘the big trip,’ not knowing where or when that would be. I had a lot on my plate — clients, writing deadlines, two acres of fallen leaves that needed raking.
“In my practice, I am always encouraging clients and others to follow their ‘clues’ as a way of understanding themselves better and getting to the essence of who they are. So I decided to follow my own clue because like everyone else who has lived for a while, there have been clues I haven’t followed and have regretted.”
Martel arrived at her hotel at 3 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, the day of the unusual event, which started at 9 a.m. “Batkid Saves City” read the top headline in the “Gotham City Chronicle.” Besides witnessing the event, Martel wanted to find out what drew other people, many from all over the country, to participate in the event. She asked bystanders and participants for their reasons.
“What are the first three words that come to mind describing your feelings about being here?” she inquired. “Most people replied ‘love, hopeful (about the human race) and pride’ in San Francisco.” Many people expressed sadness that this type of event did not happen more often, their tears underscoring how deeply they felt. Martel was shocked at how many people replied that they had never felt this way before.
In an article in June’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Paul Piff and Dacher Kellner, both professors of psychology at the University of California in Berkeley, made the case that our culture is awe-deprived. Their research suggested that even awe experienced briefly allows people to feel a greater sense of connection to others, to be more altruistic and, in general, exhibit behaviors that translate to the greater good of our collective lives.
“This event was truly one of awe,” Martel noted. “Batkid became a worldwide news story because it granted the unspoken wish of many and provided a dose of an essential vitamin needed to fill the souls and connect with the thousands in attendance and the millions following it on social media.”
For more information, visit www.skmarteledm.com