“You don’t have to be Jewish or understand a box score to embrace the crowd-pleasing national-pastime docu ‘Holy Land Hardball.’” -Variety
“An infectious feel-good experience.” -Indiewire
“Peanuts, Beer and Knishes: Bringing Baseball to Israel” -The Jewish Journal
When Boston bagel maker Larry Baras wanted to create a professional baseball league in Israel, his idea was met with incredulity, dismissal and even hostility. He attempted it anyway.
Among the ballplayers swept up in his unlikely quest: a 41-year-old father of three with a Peter Pan complex; a 27-year-old Brooklyn artist/d.j. still finding himself after the disappointment of not being drafted out of college; a 34-year-old father-to-be whose own father, now deceased, fought for Israel’s independence in 1948; and a 22-year-old African-American who was told by a preacher at a young age he would one day “play in front of God’s people.” Also along for the ride are former Jewish major leaguers Art Shamsky, Ken Holtzman, and Ron Blomberg – as team managers in the Israel Baseball League.
HOLY LAND HARDBALL is an engaging account of their dream to bring America’s pastime to the Middle East.
In 2002, Los Angeles native Brett Rapkin, at the time just a couple years out of college, attempted to bring a film crew to the most difficult country in the world for an American to visit. Inspired by a Sports Illustrated “Where Are They Now” column, the journey to Cuba was to film a definitive documentary about Bill “Spaceman” Lee, the former Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos lefty who, despite being blacklisted in 1982, had never stopped playing baseball.
SPACEMAN: A BASEBALL ODYSSEY, Rapkin’s completed feature-length film, premiered at the 2005 Discovery Channel/AFI Silverdocs Documentary Festival, was immediately acquired for distribution by Hart Sharp Video, and later aired in primetime on both the MLB Network and New England Sports Network.
After writing and producing the A&E Biography of Rod Stewart, Rapkin was offered the unique opportunity to produce and direct Bode on the Bus, a weekly travelogue featuring iconoclastic American ski racer Bode Miller. These experiences were the inspiration for THE WHITE CIRCUS, an original screenplay.
Erik Kesten is a two-time Emmy Award winning producer, writer and editor. From 2002-2010, the eight documentaries he helped write and produce for HBO Sports earned ten Emmy nominations. These included CURSE OF THE BAMBINO, HITLER’S PAWN, MANTLE, and MICHIGAN VS. OHIO STATE: THE RIVALRY. In 2008, he was a producer/editor and the series writer for BASEBALL’S GOLDEN AGE, a 13-episode series for Fox Sports Net narrated by Alec Baldwin. The series received Sports Emmy nominations for Best Edited Series and Outstanding Writing.
He was also the co-producer/director of the award-winning independent documentary HOLY LAND HARDBALL, which followed the ragtag group of players and executives who attempted to create the first-ever professional baseball league in the Middle East. The film had it television premiere on MLB Network in 2010. Kesten is currently a producer/editor for Travel Channel’s hit series GHOST ADVENTURES. Additionally, he has worked with CBS, A&E, The History Channel, NFL Network, and ESPN.