by Hope Madden and George Wolf
Normally, you’d expect the MVP of any doc about Michael Jordan – especially one featuring some priceless footage of MJ in his prime – to be the man himself. But in Meeting Michael, he’s upstaged by two kids curious about their Dad’s obsession.
Dad is writer/director Adam Kontras. An Ohio native, Kontras was just a youngster himself when he first idolized Jordan and the mid-80s Chicago Bulls. Now, his L.A. attic is bursting with impressive MJ memorabilia, including two special videotapes with some amazing behind-the-scenes footage.
At just 19 years old, Kontras was pulling the overnight shift at a news/talk radio station in Columbus. Through that gig, he scored a press pass for the Bulls game in Cleveland on Nov. 9th, 1995, and brought a camcorder. With both courtside and locker room access, Kontras captured a truly compelling moment in time.
He released some of the footage five years ago as a short film, drawing superlatives in outlets ranging from online blogs to the Washington Post. For the feature length version, Kontras smartly reframes the entire story as one he’s telling his young son and daughter on the day they’re finally allowed to explore his fan cave.
Though Kontras’s storytelling can flirt with self-congratulations, it’s more often laced with a sheepish wonder at what he pulled off, and some endearing self-deprecating humor aimed at his younger self.
As a director, Kontras (Fastest Delorean in the World, Fastest Delorean Part II) exhibits fine instincts for answering the questions raised by his on-court encounter. For example, footage of Jordan finally answering a merciless heckler sparks a natural curiosity about the garishly dressed front row loudmouth, and Kontras delivers. Bypassing this sidebar wouldn’t have wrecked the film, but giving some time to Eddie “the Heckler” Nahra leads to a richer experience.
It’s these details – some personal, some observational – that keep the film from feeling like a short surrounded by filler.
For Jordan and/or NBA fans, Meeting Michael is a must. But by anchoring the story through the sharing of passions – and by using a touching story about shoes to cement a life lesson – it’s a film with more of a purpose than just liking Mike.
Meeting Michael releases 11/9/20 on Amazon. $4.99 to rent, $7.99 to buy.