YORKTON - It was back in 2019, I first had an opportunity to interview Canadian filmmaker Kat Jayme when her short film ‘Finding Big Country’ was a finalist in the Emerging Filmmaker category at that year’s Yorkton Film Festival.
Jayme grew up watching the Vancouver Grizzlies struggle though their short existence.
“I’m a huge basketball fan. I’ve loved it since I was seven years old,” she said in 2019, an age which just happened to coincide with the arrival of the National Basketball Association Grizzlies.
That love would lead Jayme to pursue creating a film based on the Grizzlies star Bryant Reeves. Jayme remembered ‘Big Country’ fondly, and when she was in film school the idea of ‘Finding Big Country’ to get his story took shape, ultimately leading to the film of the same name.
More on the Big Country film in a bit, as I was able to reconnect with Jayme recently for her new effort, a feature length piece again focused squarely on her beloved Grizzlies this time a film documenting the team not just one notable player entitled ‘The Grizzlie Truth’.
The film explores the mysterious departure of the Vancouver Grizzlies NBA franchise through the eyes of director Jayme.
“Her search, 25 years after the team left, explores the unique and remarkable untold story behind the franchise’s downfall and the impact it had on the community. Much more than a sports story, The Grizzlie Truth is a blend of mystery, mixed with a comedy of errors and a true underdog epic that drives Jayme’s search for the truth about what happened to the franchise,” explains a release on the film.
What Jayme has focused on here is the bigger story on an expansion franchise that came and went in something of a blink on an eye in Vancouver.
“I always wanted to make this film,” Jayme explained in a recent telephone interview, adding her previous short was “was a step in the direction of making a longer feature film.”
‘Finding Big Country’ while having its own merit as a story was also very much “a proof of concept,” said Jayme, adding “it ended up opening a lot of doors” because “it made a really big splash.”
For those who are unfamiliar with Reeves, he was one of the few shining lights for Grizzlie fans in Vancouver, one of them was supposed to be Bryant Reeves, taken sixth overall in the 1995 NBA draft.
It was Reeves who really cemented Jayme as a fan, although the big centre’s time with Vancouver was not exactly a time of stardom and success.
And it never quite worked out for Reeves, or for the Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies’ story was something Jayme said she knew could make a good film.
“I knew there was so much more to explain and say about the Vancouver Grizzlies.”
Part of the story was of course near utter failure on the court during the team’s six seasons in Vancouver.
The Grizzlies were established in 1995, along with the Toronto Raptors, as part of the NBA's expansion into Canada.
Like most expansion teams, the Grizzlies struggled in their early years. The team finished last in the division in five of its seasons, and never won more than 30 per cent of its games in any of the team's seasons in Vancouver. In total, the team won 101 games, lost 359, and never qualified for the NBA playoffs.
But the move of the franchise to Memphis in 2001 stung fans like Jayme, and that sense of loss eventually led to the new film.
So why has the interest in the Grizzlies remained two decades after the move south?
Jayme said it has a lot to do with the jersey, the snarling bear dribbling a basketball is a hot item among vintage jersey enthusiasts and it is proudly worn still, keeping the team in people’s minds.
And, Jayme said with a local owner, if the NBA returned today, the game could thrive in Vancouver, so she is happily not surprised the new film is garnering attention.
You can follow the latest on The Grizzlie Truth, including screening info at thegrizzlietruth.com