Part of the mass appeal of the 2010 World Champion San Francisco Giants was not just that they won as underdogs, but that they were eclectic, atypical underdogs. Perhaps least typical of all is 33 year-old Andres Torres, nicknamed “Yungo,” who, after 12 years of struggling through various minor league programs, landed himself the starting position with the Giants in 2009, eventually making a significant impact on the team. Torres was diagnosed with ADHD in 2002, but ignored the treatment proposed by medical professionals. Although clearly talented, and gifted with exceptional speed, he was unable to focus and would forget signals given by his coach. Then, in 2007, he embraced his condition and set his sights on treatment. The medication made an impact quickly, and Torres continues to be an influential player for the San Francisco Giants today.
Sundance award-winning filmmaker Chusy Jardine (Anywhere USA) has set out to tell Torres' story in a feature-length documentary, slated for release this fall. The project is right in line with the type of motivating projects that Jardine’s production company, Plan A Films, designate as their focus. Jardin discussed his project, now in production, and expressed his hopes that the documentary will be an inspirational story that connects with an audience beyond baseball fans.
SF360: Why do you feel Andres Torres’ story needs to be told? Do you have a personal connection to ADHD?
Chusy Jardine: In everyone's story we find our own stories. Andrés overcame odds. All of us overcome odds. It's universal. His story was made even more remarkable by his ADHD. It's inexplicable that a man who can't focus for five seconds can, well, focus. The film is also about late blooming. Ask anyone at the cusp of 40 and they've surely asked themselves this question, ‘What about that burning passion in my heart... should I give up?’ The film hopes to shed some light on this and to inspire all people to never give up, to swing for the fences—Giants fans, major league players, coaches, people with ADHD in their lives, and people, all people... everyone can relate to this story.
My personal connection comes with family members who have it and oddly as I’ve been making this film, as I learn about the criterion that defines a person with ADHD, I am starting to suspect that a person like me with a peripatetic interest in all things, who flits from thing to thing, might well be ADHD.
SF360: How did you find out about Torres’ story and his struggle with ADHD? What was it about Torres that made you want to tell his story?
Jardine: My brother, Carl Haney, showed my work, my Sundance Film, Anywhere USA and my sports documentary about the cyclist, George Hincapie, to the head of one of the greatest design firms in the world, IDEO, who happened to be at a party where Will Chang, one of the owners of the San Francisco Giants, was making susurrations about a movie about one of his players, a Latino with ADHD. Within a week I was on a plane to pitch the film to Andrés and to Will. Once we met at Mr. Chang's offices, I heard Andrés speak. I looked into his eyes and heard a brief recount of his struggles. I fell in love. I felt he was 100 percent genuine. Directors do that, you know—they fall in love with their subjects. We started filming the film right there and there, in the conference room. It is my privilege to know this guy and to put a camera on him and his family.
SF360: How did Torres initially react to your pitch for the movie?
Jardine: The way I pitched the film to him was that I wrote him a fan letter that stated that his story was actually my story. I came to the party…filmmaking… late, after struggling and struggling making toilet bowl cleaner commercials. It was a personal and intimate letter. The letter was in Spanish (my maternal tongue) and at the end said, ‘Andrés, you, me, and everyone who has had to struggle to achieve are GIANTS. The rest is historia.’ Parenthetically, his gratitude was overwhelming. He was honored to have someone turn the camera on him.
SF360: I read on your website that there’s a possibility that Gigante will premiere at AT&T Park, which seems to be an appropriate venue. Any update on that becoming a reality?
Jardine: The Giants' front office, headed by Larry Baer and Staci Slaughter, in particular, has been incredibly supportive. They, themselves, suggested screening the film there after showing them some brief clips. Andrés and I cried upon learning of the possibility. The only stumbling block is getting MLB’s (Major League Baseball) clearance on our footage and the event.
SF360: Has the concept or focus of the film change from when you initially came up with the idea to when you started following Torres?
Jardine: One of the beauties of how I work is that I try not to make any hypothesis from the get-go. Instead, I act like an ignorant man on a quest to learn something. The story unravels itself, but I have to shoot a 6,000 square-foot mansion worth of material in order to show a thimble-sized thing called a documentary. Clearly ADHD was going to be a part of the film, but overlapping the concept of late blooming and obeying one's heart above all makes for a nice Venn diagram to portray a man this special. We're still shooting so ask me August 1. We are going to Puerto Rico soon to recreate his childhood with kid actors, chosen from the streets of his neighborhood.
SF360: What has been your favorite moment during filming?
Jardine: So far it had to be when we arrived to Aguada, Puerto Rico, with ‘Yungo’ and unbeknownst to him, the town had organized a hero's parade, albeit a folkloric, low-tech crazy western Puerto Rico parade. He had not been to Puerto Rico since winning the World Series. It was so beautiful to see how much joy he brought to that part of the island and how much gratitude he showed those that helped him along the way. The adoration, appreciation and the intimate knowledge that the town had of his struggles really touched me.
SF360: What is your goal for the film? Do you have specific distribution plans or plan to enter it into film festivals?
Jardine: The goal is simple… to get as many eyeballs on it as possible. If anyone reads this and wants to help, visit planafilms.com. Thanks!
SF360: Have things changed for you as a filmmaker since being awarded the Prize in Dramatic Competition for your feature film ‘Anywhere USA’ at the Sundance Film Festival?
Jardine: Well, let's see... I used to direct toilet bowl cleaner commercials....ahem. Winning at Sundance is simply an endorsement that the ideas you have in your head may find some traction with others. Since then I've dedicated myself to documentaries exclusively. My company, Plan A Films, works on movies that matter… we like to think.
Note: You can view the trailer for Gigante via yungogigante.com and watch Chusy Jardine’s recent presentation at the TEDxSF Conference in June via YouTube.
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