Has there ever been a bad documentary about games? Think of Word Wars, which tackled the obsessive world of competitive scrabble, or Wordplay, the amazing crossword doc that introduced Will Shortz to a wider audience. Or The King of Kong, or all the excellent 30 for 30 films released by ESPN over the past three years. And when you combine that element with the tension of little kids competing against each other, as in the all-time classic Spellbound, you really can’t miss.
Netflix gambled on the success of the genre by acquiring Short Game, a film about eight golfers under the age of seven who meet at the World Championship of Junior Golf in Pinehurst, N.C. The event features 1,500 golfers from 54 countries who are all competing to become the sport’s next phenom. The film won the audience award at SXSW in Austin this March and will make its debut on Netflix on Dec. 12, where it will be the company’s first documentary acquisition to hit the air. Short Game was directed by Josh Greenbaum (Golf enthusiast Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel were among the executive producers), and he was understandably thrilled at the news.
“As a filmmaker, you hope your work will reach as many people as possible,” he said, “and that’s what’s so exciting about partnering with Netflix, who are presenting some of the most original and cutting edge programming on the planet right now. The idea of people all across the world being able to watch the film is a dream come true.”
Check out the trailer below. Maybe it’s my recent obsession with golf talking, but this looks incredible. It has everything you’d expect; overbearing parents, kids throwing tantrums and the almost unbearable pressure of competition among those who may not be emotionally equipped to deal with the nerves. My favorite moment, though, comes from the kid who says golf is “50 percent luck, 70 percent skill.” He’s like a young Yogi Berra!
Netflix appears to be quite serious about documentaries. Yesterday, the company announced the acquisition of The Square, a film about the 2011 Egyptian Revolution that may compete for an Academy Award. You can read Tim Grierson’s review here.