Consistent with a frame that barely breaks five feet, Kat Jayme packs a lot into the 45 minutes of “Finding Big Country”. A basketball fan since childhood, and no slouch herself on the court, Jayme’s sweet film is a love letter to Bryant “Big Country” Reeves, the Vancouver Grizzlies’ often benighted centre who disappeared without trace not long after the team split for Memphis in 2001.
Beyond pursuing that delicious riddle, “Finding Big Country” also wants to restore a chapter of Vancouver’s past that’s been mysteriously redacted in some ways—as when Jayme visits the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame to find those bleak six years of our NBA franchise represented by a single ball. We all bury uncomfortable things from our past, but this is forced amnesia on a citywide scale.
“It’s so weird,” says the filmmaker, in a call to the Straight. “On the streets of Vancouver, everyone has a story about the Grizzlies. But there are no physical remnants. If you were a tourist, you’d never know that we ever had a team. No photos in any sports bar, nothing. It might be because we obviously were the worst team in the NBA, so some might say there’s nothing to be proud of. But the Grizzlies are still a huge part of Vancouver’s history, and we should celebrate that.”
While nobody’s likely to argue the facts—ample archival footage recalls the team’s hilariously bad rep—“Finding Big Country” is determined to set the record straight on Reeves himself, “a legend in our back yard” in Jayme’s view. Another vintage clip reminds us that Shaquille O’Neal would cosign that statement.
“I think true fans understand how good of a player he was,” states Jayme. “But he’s definitely the guy that everyone gets mad about, and I think a lot of people blame him for the fact that the Grizzlies left, which is pretty unfair.”
Speaking of unfair: Jayme folds some autobiography into the Storyhive-supported film, paralleling Reeves’s fate with her own disappointments as a player, ultimately turning “Finding Big Country” into what she calls a “redemption story”.
“It’s about how you can look at something and see failure, but, after taking a step back, realizing that maybe things worked out the way they were supposed to in the end. In telling Bryant’s story, I’m also able to tell the story of my relationship with and love for basketball—and filmmaking, as well.”