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Passion for the Game

The Southern Circuit Tour of independent films, the ongoing screening series being presented by the Carolina Theatre in Greensboro, concludes its spring 2016 line-up with Eugene Corr’s Ghost Town to Havana on Tuesday, April 12.

The film profiles two dedicated baseball coaches: Roscoe Bryant of Oakland, California (a crime-ridden region known as “Ghost Town”) and Nicolas Reyes of Havana, Cuba. Whatever the differences or similarities in their culture, both share a passionate devotion to their players, the game of baseball and, indeed, the game of life.

“Both love what they do, but both are struggling a lot,” says Corr. “Baseball is a community game that requires a community to thrive. How do you volunteer and mentor when you’re broke?” Both Reyes and Bryant try, with varying degrees of success and satisfaction, to balance their coaching with the demands of life off the playing field. “They play the game straight, that’s a good way of saying it. At least once a year I get a call from Roscoe telling me ‘That’s it, I can’t do it anymore, I’m finished’ – but he always goes back. It’s love, and it is labor.” (He’s fielding three teams this season.)

In addition to the coaches and players, Ghost Town to Havana touches upon the economic disparity between the United States and Cuba. In some cases, the Cuban players have more resources.

“There’s so much trouble in so many ways in Cuba,” says Corr. “But in Cuba they have better healthcare for kids, more sports and education programs, both the Spanish and Afro-Cuban cultures. The infant mortality rates in Cuba and the United States are almost even. The only sin you can commit as a child in Cuba is to grow up.”

In addition, as the film shows, “the passion the Cubans have for the game is so great,” Corr says. “In Cuba, the parents are over-involved. In the US, the parents are under-involved – if involved at all.”

Corr directed the US scenes but had to rely on Roberto Chile (credited as co-director) to shoot the Cuban ones, for obvious reasons. “There is so much talent in Cuba, and Chile did a wonderful job. I would send him four-page e-mails asking what I wanted, and he did a beautiful job.”

Incredibly, says Corr, “he’d never owned a camera before! He’s actually getting more work than I am these days!” Corr has written and/or directed numerous projects in his career, both in the narrative and documentary fields. In 1986, he directed and co-wrote the acclaimed ‘50s-era domestic drama Desert Bloom, starring Jon Voight, JoBeth Williams, Ellen Barkin, Allen Garfield and newcomer Annabeth Gish. But Columbia Pictures, then in the throes of corporate upheaval, didn’t so much release the film as let it escape.

“The studios don’t have any idea how to release something like that now,” he laughs. “I did everything I could. But it had a life – people saw it on video, on cable. They still come up to me and tell me they’ve seen it.”

He also helmed episodes of “I’ll Fly Away,” “Arli$$,” “Shannon’s Deal,” and “Crime Story,” the retro-’60s Las Vegas crime drama produced by Michael Mann which ran two seasons (1986-’88) on NBC and starred Dennis Farina as hard-boiled detective Mike Torello.

“That was my favorite,” he says. “More than anything else I did on episodic TV, ‘Crime Story’ I enjoyed the most. I did an episode of ‘Miami Vice,’ but the chemistry wasn’t right. Had ‘Crime Story’ continued, I would have directed a lot more. Michael Mann and I got along, he liked what I did, and Dennis Farina was my hero. Sadly, he’s no longer around, but he was wonderful to work with. He had been a Chicago policeman for 19 years – he turned in his papers the year before he would have qualified for pension – because he wanted to be an actor. Talk about guts! He walked the walk and he talked the talk. He had it. And he was so versatile.”

As he tours with Ghost Town to Havana, Corr continues to regard it as “sort of a miracle film,” he says. “It was hard to fund. We had four or five grants, three substantial donors, and individual funding of about 100 (donors) – but it didn’t come all at once. We’d work on it a little bit, then have to fund-raise, then go back. It should have been completed in 2013 or maybe even 2012. You always wish you could have done something more, but I am pleased with the result.”

Throughout the film, Corr (who narrates) touches upon his love of baseball, imparted to him by his namesake father, himself a coach of great renown in the Bay Area. Theirs was a sometimes rocky relationship, but the junior Corr recognizes the passion and devotion bequeathed him in terms of their mutual love for baseball and its players.

“I think he would have liked the film,” he says. “He’d give me a little bit of grief about it – he always gave me a little bit of grief! But I believe he would have liked it and I sure hope he would have. He was one tough son of a bitch. He had a ferocious commitment to mentorship … and that is what this film is about. It’s about mentorship, more than anything else.” !

WANNA go?

Ghost Town to Havana will be screened 7 pm Tuesday, April 12 in the Crown at the Carolina Theatre (310 S. Greene St., Greensboro). Tickets are $7 (general admission) or $6 (students, senior citizens, military). Filmmaker Eugene Corr and “Ghost Town” coach Roscoe Bryant are scheduled to attend. For advance tickets or more information, call 336.333.2605 or visit the official Carolina Theatre website: www.carolinatheatre.com/. The film’s official website is: www.ghosttowntohavana.com/.

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