- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Make-A-Wish Foundation has made dreams come true for children for 35 years, but a 5-year-old’s wish to be Batman — not just to dress up like him, but to actually become the Caped Crusader — seemed a tall order.

However, through hard work, a can-do spirit and a global social media campaign that went viral, that is precisely what happened for Miles Scott in November 2013.

A new documentary called “Batkid Begins,” directed by Dana Nachman, tells the backstage story of the California youngster, who was battling leukemia, and his wish to become his favorite superhero.

The film traces how Miles‘ wish soon took on a life of its own, first with local actors willing to portray the Dark Knight’s heroes and villains, then with San Francisco authorities allowing part of the city to be “turned into” Gotham City, and finally with social media picking up on the story so that support of all kinds flowed in from around the world. A car enthusiast even donated a Lamborghini to serve as an ersatz Batmobile.

“I live in the middle of Silicon Valley. What interested me was why it went so viral,” Ms. Nachman told The Washington Times.

She said Make-A-Wish workers’ initial hope was to get 200 people to show up in downtown San Francisco for Miles‘ big day; by showtime, thousands had come from around the world to cheer on the Batkid.

“It’s one thing if you’re trying to make something go viral, but to think that they weren’t even looking for that and that this kind of engulfed them — that really struck a chord with me,” Ms. Nachman said, adding that her own young children pressed her to make a film they themselves might enjoy.

Make-A-Wish quickly constructed a “narrative” for Miles: He and Batman, portrayed by Bay Area actor and acrobat Eric Johnston, would take on The Riddler and The Penguin, be given “orders” via pre-recorded video from San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr, rescue a damsel in distress, played by Mr. Johnston’s wife, and then be given the keys to the city by Mayor Ed Lee.

The plan was kept entirely secret from Miles until Mr. Johnston showed up in costume at the Scotts’ hotel room and entreated his young sidekick to suit up.

Throughout the Dynamic Duo’s daylong “mission,” they were cheered on by thousands of spectators who had taken off from work or flown into the town for the occasion.

“I think it does say something that people want to have a communal experience. I really do feel that people are inherently good,” Ms. Nachman said — this even though her previous documentaries have tackled subjects such as child molestation allegations and terrorism. “I think it’s nice to see something that really just was an organic community event, for no local reason or no financial reason.

“It just shows that, for a minute or a second, people were interested in a little boy and his great caper.”

The campaign spawned a hashtag, #SFBatKid, that was tagged around the world as people live-tweeted Miles‘ bat-sploits on the day of the event. Even President Obama wished young Miles well on Twitter.

Appropriately enough, Warner Bros., which owns the right to the Batman universe, purchased Ms. Nachman’s film for distribution. It opens in the District Thursday.

Despite her previous heavy subject matter, Ms. Nachman believes “Batkid Begins” perhaps marks a turn in her work. She next is going to work on a short film about a disabled man who channeled his suicidal thoughts into art therapy, crafting sand sculptures that are washed away by the ocean.

“It’s basically the only time he doesn’t feel pain,” Ms. Nachman said. “And then the art gets washed away in the tide.”

In the nearly two years since Miles‘ day in the Batsuit, she and the Scott family have remained close.

“My son is very close friends with him,” she said, proudly adding that, after Miles‘ recent two-year checkup, the boy remains cancer-free.

Perhaps it’s the most Hollywood ending of all for the Batkid.


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