Excellence in TV…Part 1

If you missed PBS’s “American Experience” profile of Roberto Clemente, you missed a true classic. Filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz quite correctly characterizes his work as not only a historical film but also as “deeply spiritual.” If you did miss the broadcast, then go immediately online and buy the video at, <http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=3056848>. Look, I don’t work for PBS nor are they a client but this film definitely moved me, and I think it will move others.

Like many folks, I’ve known the story about Clemente’s heroic feats on the baseball diamond and his humanitarian efforts off the field, but Ruiz’s film captures so much of Clemente’s brief yet monumental life. Ruiz manages to deliver in one hour a powerful film about the life of a truly great man. PBS aptly made this film a part of its “American Experience” series for it tells the story about a legend from America’s favorite pastime but it also vividly captures the black Latino experience in the U.S.–the film addresses Clemente’s consciousness about being black. If you consider yourself a student of American history, then you should see this film. It should also be required viewing for any serious student or practitioner of marketing–Hispanic or otherwise.

And if it’s just that you’ve grown weary and jaded because of all the crap that comes out of professional baseball these days, then this film will re-energize you. The likes of Bonds and Clemens are mere players next to Clemente. One of the commentators in this film is conservative writer and basball fanatic George Will who describes Clemente’s play on the field as “eloquent.” Will is right, and one could easily extend his description to all of Clemente’s life.

One aspect of the film that should be instructive to those of us who call ourselves marketing professionals is how much the making of this film is a reflection of the essence of Clemente’s life, and the unique bonds that link Latinos across so many borders, seas and yes, races. We know of Clemente’s Puerto Rican heritage and his tragic end while trying to help Nicaraguans. Ruiz, the filmmaker, was born in Mexico and raised in Brooklyn, and made a beautiful film about a black Puerto Rican legend who left an indelible mark on the American landscape. There’s a clip in the film from the 1971 World Series, when Clemente is being interviewed after his team’s victory, which speaks volumes about what it means to be Latin American or Latino. The interviewer asks Clemente, in English, the requisite “what’s-it-feel-like” question but Clemente takes charge, and in Spanish, pays tribute to his parents and his native Puerto Rico. This giant of a man never forgot his roots.

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