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23 Blast (2013)

by on October 25, 2013
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23Blast - inside

Sports movies have captivated me throughout the decades: “The Blind Side” (2009), “Rudy” (1993), “Hoosiers” (1986) and now “23 Blast.” Dylan Baker’s directorial debut is a football movie that wowed the audience during its showing at the 22nd Annual Hoosier Heartland Film Festival.

The film tells the inspirational true story of high school football player Travis Freeman, who, despite suffering a bacterial infection in his eyes which rendered him completely blind, continued to play football. Yes, you read that properly: a blind man playing football.

I’m not going to lie: I was a bit nervous when I realized that I’d be watching an independent film with a young actor attempting the role of a blind man. The possibility for disaster was very real. Fortunately, Mark Hapka, who playsTravis, absolutely nails this role; it was the second best performance of a blind man I’ve ever seen … and yes, it’s OK to fall second to Jamie Foxx. (Remember, he won an Oscar for his role in “Ray” [2004].)

“23 Blast” finds a fine balance between comedy and tragedy, crafted with the skill of a much larger Hollywood production. The well-timed comedic gems carry the film through many of the difficult scenes without detracting in any way from the actual story.

After the film, the filmmakers engaged the audience in a Q&A session. Also in attendance was the real Travis Freeman and his parents, who told the Film Yap that they were all very satisfied and thought “23 Blast” accurately captured his journey (physical and spiritual).

Travis is currently a preacher and recently received his doctorate from the University of the Cumberland in Williamsburg, Kentucky. Screenwriter Toni Hoover stated that although she didn’t seek to write a movie with religious undertones, she couldn’t help but tell Travis’ story without its mention.

First-time director Dylan Baker was aided by the same choreographers who worked on the football scenes in “Friday Night Lights” (2004), as well a camera crew from “Monday Night Football.” All of these elements combine to make an independent production that has the feel of a bigger-budgeted film.

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