Finding Big Country tells the story of one of the Vancouver Grizzlies’ biggest players.
Bryant “Big Country” Reeves lives up — way up — to his name. Part of that nickname comes from his 7-foot stature and part of it is because he’s a country boy at heart, born in Gans, Oklahoma, population 307.
Reeves was the Vancouver Grizzlies’ first-ever draft pick, going sixth overall in the first round of the 1995 NBA draft.
The Grizzlies saw a lot in Reeves and after his first year, signed him for a six-year $61.8 million contract.
But the Vancouver NBA team only lasted another five seasons and struggled, as expansion teams often do, to gain a foothold.
Reeves became a scapegoat for the team’s failure and when they relocated to Memphis, back problems forced Reeves to retire.
The film, directed by Vancouver filmmaker Kat Jayme, explores Big Country’s history with the team and his impact.
But more importantly, Jayme tracks him down and, for the first time since he left Vancouver, gets him to talk about his time there.
Many have tried to talk to Reeves over the years, so there was a lot of doubt about whether or not Jayme could ever get the interview. But she persisted and gained the trust of Reeves’ close friends, who convinced him the two should meet.
“When he sits down on the screen for the very first time when it played in Vancouver, the theatre erupted in applause. We had finally found our long-lost hero,” Jayme said.
But at its heart, the film is as much about Jayme as it is about Reeves.
Jayme has been making films since high school and said she was “always that friend who had a camera in their hand.”
She also grew up as a fan of the Vancouver Grizzlies, and the team’s six seasons overlapped with her development as a player and drove her passion for basketball.
“Basketball is probably the main thing that has shaped me into the person I am today,” she told KTW.
Jayme’s success as a high school player is documented in the film, as is the story about how she didn’t make the final cut for the UBC varsity team.
“That’s when I realized, OK, I’m going to put all of my time and energy into film,” she said.
The film that she said got her into UBC film school was also about basketball — the story of Carling Muir, a Langara College baller who played through chemotherapy while being treated for brain cancer.
After graduating UBC film school in 2011, Jayme went on to work for the National Film Board, where she oversaw more than 30 documentaries, animations and digital projects between 2012 and 2016. She also completed her short film Paradise Island, which was nominated for two Leo Awards and screened at the 2015 Cannes Short Film Corner.
Her accolades — plus the help of a Telus Storyhive grant — allowed her to make Finding Big Country, which she called her “dream project.”
“I knew this was a story that was going to be told sooner or later, and I knew that I had to be the first one to do it,” she said.
Jayme found herself driven to succeed in her search to find Reeves, and — spoiler alert — not only did she find him, she made the best of an encounter with one of her heroes.
“Anything I wanted to do, he said ‘yes,’” she said.
“I don’t think Bryant was humouring me, but I do think he realized how much this meant to me as a childhood fan — and I think that’s the main reason he did this.”
Her time with Reeves included some one-on-one time on the court, and Jayme said it was her dream come true to share the court with a man who seemed, at times, to be nearly twice her size.
“He wasn’t going to let me come home to Vancouver to brag that I beat Big Country — and I’m happy about that,” she said.
The film will screen Saturday at 7 p.m. at Paramount Theatre, 503 Victoria St. Tickets are available at the venue, at Moviemart or online at kamloopsfilmfestival.ca.