Can a home-run baseball magically vanish into thin air among a crowd of people sitting in the grandstands? Filmmaker Brian Biegel set out to find out this piece of sports memorabilia that has been missing for more than half a century.
You know the back story: On Oct. 3, 1951, New York Giants outfielder and third baseman Bobby Thomson hit a home run off Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca at the Polo Grounds in Manhattan. The home run led the Giants to a victory against the Dodgers and the National League pennant. The home-run ball became known as “The Shot Heard ’Round the World.”
“It was the first time anyone had done this kind of investigation,” says Biegel of his quest. “In over half a century, nobody went to these lengths that we did in investigating and making this film.”
The mission enlisted help from New York Police Department forensic detectives, curators from several museums and even accounts of eyewitnesses who were either at the game or knew someone who was. Biegel says it was also a family quest to find the most valuable artifact in the collectable industry. He had help from his father, Jack, and brother, Steve.
“I was drawn in by the compelling story,” says producer Sal Del Giudice of Bellmore, who joined the project because he is a big fan of the game and the historical ties associated with the film. “It was an incredible journey watching this story unraveling each and every day, and I am quite proud of the work we have done.”
Miracle Ball: The Hunt for the Shot Heard Around the World will have its world premiere on Sat., July 10 at the 13th annual Long Island International Film Expo.
“It is really going to touch a lot of people that love the history of baseball,” says Del Giudice of the film. “There is going to not just be a positive reaction, but I think there is a wow factor. We are uncovering a big secret,” adds Biegel.
Miracle Ball is just one of the 156 films that have been selected to be screened at this year’s film festival. About 400 independent submissions from all over the world, spanning a variety of genres, were sent in.
“It is just as difficult as it always is,” says Debra Markowitz, vice president and secretary of the Long Island Film/TV Foundation (LIFTF), of the selection process.
Markowitz says many of this year’s films have been completed by filmmakers returning to the Expo. Some of the films also have ties to Long Island; either they were filmed here or the filmmakers live in the area.
They include movies such as A Little Help, which was shot in Plandome Village and Port Washington by filmmaker Michael J. Weithorn, who was raised in Port Washington; Bereavement, by writer, director, producer and musician Stevan Mena of Bellport; The Last Day of Summer by Larry Strong and Michael Arbouet of Hempstead and Kevin Arbouet of Astoria, and The 5th Quarter, directed and written by Rick Bieber of North Massapequa.
The 5th Quarter will open the festival on Fri., July 9. It is about Jon Abbate, who loses his 15-year-old brother, Luke, in a fatal car crash. The tragedy gives Jon the drive to wear Luke’s No. 5 jersey to help the Wake Forest Demon Deacons football team play its way to the most successful season in school history. Stars include Andie McDowell and Aiden Quinn.
“I am assuming that it is going to do very well,” says Markowitz.
Hindsight, a short documentary screening on Sun., July 11, focuses on the heroin epidemic on Long Island. It tells the story through the perspectives of those who are battling the addiction. It includes the story of Natalie Ciappa, the North Massapequa teenager who died of a heroin overdose on June 21, 2008—days before her high school graduation.
“It is a very timely, touching and serious documentary,” says Markowitz.
This year, the Expo has added a couple of panels with new themes and associations. In previous years they had panels on film distribution and script writing; however, this year there will be a Women in Film panel sponsored by the New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT), a nonprofit organization for professional women in film, television and media that seeks out women’s rights, achievements and points of view in the industry.
Also new this year is a demonstration by Directors ‘n’ Actors (DnA). DnA is based in New York City and their goal is to help directors increase and improve their skills and ability to listen and communicate with actors.
“They are actually going to come out from the city and do a demonstration for us,” Markowitz says. “It’s kind of cool to be associated with them.”
The Expo is being held at the Bellmore Movies from July 8 to July 18. It is sponsored by LIFTF and the Nassau County Film Commission.
The films range in length from shorts to feature-length independent films. This year’s Expo features works from (but not limited to) Brazil, Moscow, Australia, Sweden, Canada, Cameroon, Japan, Italy and—of course—Long Island.
Prices vary depending on how many films you are interested in viewing. If you are up for a challenge, purchase the Gold Pass for $60 to view all 156 films being screened at the festival. A day pass costs $20, or tickets can be purchased for a film block ranging from two to 10 screenings, depending on the type of film, and cost $9 for general admission. Seniors, students and Filmmakers Connection members receive a $2 discount on general admission.
Like Thomson’s pennant-clinching home run, the Expo promises to offer some thrills. Says Markowitz, “It’s going to be exciting.”