LFF 2020: One Man And His Shoes – Review

Release Date – 23rd October 2020, Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 23 minutes, Director – Yemi Bamiro

Documentary about basketball and Michael Jordan’s part in the rise of Nike shoes

Within the first 15 minutes of One Man And His Shoes you feel as if you’re watching an Aaron Sorkin directed documentary. Yemi Bamiro’s latest feature packs in huge amounts of detail, talking to multiple figures with passion for the topics covered in a short space of time; while still making the film accessible and engaging. Throughout we follow the story of the rise of Nike trainers and their use of basketball to advertise themselves, particularly the iconic figure of Michael Jordan – and the brand deals that they had with him. Information is packed in and yet still easy to follow, thanks to the simplistic style of the documentary and the setting and basis of each interview, quickly forming and telling a gradual narrative that’s simple to follow even for those not the most interested in either basketball or shoes, a category which I fall into.

What makes the film so engaging is the level of passion that emits from the people at the centre of it. From basketball fans and historians to former Nike and advertising/ PR heads and workers, and even just shoe collectors, there’s care and knowledge for the subject from everyone involved. The way they speak about the subjects and the topic, how much they love what they’re describing simply brings you in as you want to see the story unfold and know about the connection between, at one point newbie basketball player, Michael Jordan and one of the biggest shoe brands in the world. At one point an interviewee says in relation to a specific pair of shoes, and Jordan, “It’s more than just the shoes. It’s what he did as a basketball player in those shoes that means a lot to me”. You see a personal side to these stories and the impact that the events in the film had on people, adding to your engagement.

The film doesn’t just shower praise onto the Nike, Air Jordan’s and the titular figurehead of the shoes, however. In the final 15-20 minutes the film does begin to lean into tragedies related to the shoes. Bringing in hints of emotion with them and helping to avoid the feeling of a hagiography. However, with what has to be said about such points and how briefly they seem to be discussed, in relation to the rest of the film’s topics; including Spike Lee directed adverts for Air Jordan’s, such ideas do create a sort of tonal shift. While they’re fairly effective and work well in comparison to what has happened before there’s a definite, almost immediate, shift in tone. Thoughts do begin to enter the mind as to why this wasn’t the main point of the film, or at least discussed earlier on, it does feel the most relevant and timely point that the film makes, when the idea of deaths of children and teenagers in relation to the shoes does seem important and not something to breeze over – something which the film might only just avoid.

But, with that aside the core of the film still remains intact. One featuring many people overflowing with passion for the subject matter, unpicking and reliving certain details allowing them to hold a sense of nostalgia and happily tell the camera their thoughts and memories, while still keeping an informing and engaging feature. It’s precisely this that hooks you and draws you in, even if you have no initial interest in the subject matter. For the most part the film is interesting and engaging, told in a way that keeps this feel and interest throughout the short run-time of the film. There may be the tonal shift towards the end to something that could be dwelled on a bit more than it is, but for the most part this is a well-made, engaging documentary that works because the people involved know what they’re talking about and care greatly about the subject matter.

While the final stages of One Man And His Shoes feel a bit rushed and aside from the rest of the film what comes before is an engaging, passionate and thorough look through the relationship between PR, shoes and basketball, even for those with no initial interest in the subject matters.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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