David and Zev Brooks discovered some recent truth in a line from the 1989 big-screen baseball classic "Field of Dreams": "If you build it, he will come."
This past Tuesday, the American film distribution company Magnolia Home Entertainment released the brothers' award-winning 2009 independent film "The Yankles" on DVD andBlu-ray, bringing their first attempt at filmmaking into the home theaters of viewers across the country.
On a late-night conference call last Thursday from their New York City hotel room, the filmmakers — David, a Westminster resident, who directed the film, and his older brother Zev, a Fountain Valley resident, who was its executive producer — reflected on the gamut of their film's success with fatigued delight.
"We're thrilled that a big company like Magnolia saw the same vision we had," David said. "All I've ever wanted as a filmmaker was to have the opportunity for a wide audience to see this, and now we'll have that across all platforms."
"The Yankles" is a 115-minute comedy-drama about an Orthodox Jewish baseball team looking for leadership and a washed-up ex-pro ball player-turned-coach looking for a chance at redemption after losing his career to a series of bad alcohol-induced decisions.
According to the film's synopsis, Charlie Jones (played by Brian Wimmer) finds himself on parole, fulfilling 192 hours of mandatory community service by coaching the Yankles, a college baseball team of mostly Orthodox Jews. As it turns out, Jones leads the team of unusually uniformed ball players to the College World Series — their individual sidecurls swinging as they round each base for the win.
The story the Brookses built has had diverse audiences of "Jews, non-Jews, men, women and children alike," laughing, smiling and sometimes verklempt in theaters around the world. As the synopsis reads, "[It's] about real people with real problems and real needs, and promises to be meaningful and provocative movie entertainment."
"That was the goal," Zev said. "We have no doubt anymore that the majority of audience members are going to like the film. Like a good joke, it's all about the timing. And it was the right time for a movie like 'The Yankles.' It delivers the right amount of humor with a respectful representation of the Jewish faith."
Film in Utah with, ironically, a predominantly Mormon cast, "The Yankles" has received nine film festival awards, including Best Comedy at the 2010 International Family Film Festival and Best Feature at the 2010 Anaheim International Film Festival.
The brothers were in Manhattan last week for the film's New York premiere at an Upper West Side Jewish community center. David and Zev both said they were as anxious about this particular crowd's response to the film as they were its first screening.
"The mainstay of our audience is here, if you think about it," David said. "As a national pastime, baseball is so loved here in the New York area, which also has the largest Jewish population in the United States. So if this audience didn't laugh at our jokes, we were in trouble. But they cracked up at all the right times, and we were immediately relived."
Zev, the more reserved of the two, compared his personal experience making "The Yankles" to that of captaining a ship.
"We've crossed some very stormy seas in this process," he said. "But now I feel like we've hit the dock safely, we're back to dry land and I feel really good about bringing our ship home. We certainly sailed our vessel the best we could. We hope to sail again soon and keep making movies."
Though nothing has been officially announced, David said several new film scripts are in the works, and they promise to be as uncharted as pairing baseball and Judaism.
"If you're going to do something as a beginner, why not do something that has never been done before?" David said. "We had such a unique concept with this first film, and we hope to bring new ideas like this to the big screen in the future."
ForFather's Daygift seekers, "The Yankles" will be available for purchase in all major stores where DVD and Blu-ray movies are sold. The film's soundtrack, featuring a eclectic mix of klezmer, hip-hop and funk, was made available for purchase Tuesday through the film's website, http://www.yankles.com.
How will the Brookses be celebrating the latest milestone of "The Yankles"?
"We'll probably be going to Wal-Martand Best Buy," David said. "We'll be the guys standing in front of film racks taking pictures of the DVDs on the stand."