“Benji,” the centerpiece of ESPN’s contribution to the Tribeca Film Festival, packs the emotional punch you would expect of a story about the death of a high school basketball star that rocked Chicago in 1984.
Directors Coodie and Chike, primarily known for their work on music videos, capture the sad story of Ben Wilson through effective use of archival video and compelling interviews with many of those who knew Wilson best.
What stands out is how his life and death continue to affect men and women now into middle age.
“It still impacts a lot of people in Chicago,’’ Kurt Jones, one of his best friends, said after a screening Saturday. “A lot of us really haven’t had closure.’’
That was evident Saturday in the angry words of Jeff Wilson, Ben’s younger brother, after watching the admitted shooter, Billy Moore, give his version of the fatal incident in the documentary.
“You can’t believe a killer,’’ he said. “It’s unbelievable how some people can lie.’’
Coodie said the goal of the film is “to make thugs cry. We want to show kids, gangsters, gang-bangers, one second of pulling out a gun and shooting somebody, you don’t know who that person is and how many lives you may destroy, including your own.’’
Said Chike: “Hopefully we can get the film in front of those kids who really need to see it.’’
The film has one more public screening Saturday, and will premiere on ESPN Oct. 23.