Tribeca Review: “Catching Hell”

In his latest film documentarian Alex Gibney proclaims a desire to get at the root of how scapegoats are anointed. Ironically, Gibney’s repeated declaration of his question is the film’s biggest weakness, because he never really tackles it. But what he does offer is a Warren Commission-like breakdown of the infamous Chicago Cubs "Steve Bartman Incident," and its links to the equally infamous Buckner incident. 

As a fan of the Boston Red Sox, Gibney knows all to well how Bill Buckner’s name became a regional profanity across New England after Mookie Wilson’s groundball squirted through his legs, allowing the Mets to score the tying run in the 6th game of the 1986 World Series, which the Mets would eventually win in Game 7.

Seventeen years later, the Chicago Cubs, the only team in baseball to suffer a longer World Series victory drought than Boston’s, found themselves in Game Six of the National League Championship Series, just five outs away from their first World Series visit in 95 years. But then a high fly ball floated off the bat of Luis Castillo, drifting toward the leftfield stands. Just as it appeared to be ready to settle into the glove of Moises Alou, a scrum rose in the stands and the hands of a young man name Steve Bartman disrupted the catch. He was so instantly vilified that he was showered with beer and chants of “A**hole,” had to be escorted out of the ballpark by security and lives in hiding to this day.

Gibney dissects the circumstances surrounding Bartman’s darkest moment with interviews of several of the people who were sitting around him, collecting video shot by a number of fans who were in attendance and even traveling down to the Dominican Republic to talk to Moises Alou. It’s as thorough a look at the act and the actors as one could hope for. It’s a remarkably robust history of a single moment in time.

For Red Sox fans, who have enjoyed two World Championships since 1986, and others, “Catching Hell” is a fascinating look back at one of the most notorious meltdowns in sports history. For Cubs fan, “Catching Hell” will be hell.

"Catching Hell" is showing April 30 as at the Tribeca Film Festival

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