Few movie going experiences in 2016 will be as hopeful or as emotionally draining as the documentary “Gleason.” It takes a good long look at the life of former NFL player Steve Gleason, a defensive back for the New Orleans Saints, who was best known for blocking a punt from the Atlanta Falcons on September 25, 2006. This game marked the first time the Saints had been back to their home stadium since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, so it made their welcome back celebration all the more thrilling.
In 2011, Steve was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gerig’s Disease, an incurable disease which slowly robs the body of all its motor functions and eventually leads to death. It was around that time that he also discovered his wife Michel was pregnant with their son, and this led him to start a video diary for their unborn child so that he could leave as much of who he is as a person to him before the disease takes its toll. While his situation is bleak, Steve still lives life to the fullest and is determined to be there for his wife and son no matter what.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with the director of “Gleason,” Clay Tweel, while he was in Los Angeles. Tweel previously directed “Make Believe,” a documentary which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 LA Film Festival, and “Finders Keepers” which premiered to rave reviews at Sundance in 2015. For “Gleason,” Tweel had to go through 1,500 hours of footage to give us the documentary that is now arriving in theatres everywhere. He explained how he managed to whittle down that footage, how “Gleason” compares to the film “The Theory of Everything” which also deals with ALS, and of how the health struggles of a family member and the late, great Muhammad Ali inspired him to get the director’s job for this.
Please check out the interview above, and please be sure to see “Gleason” when it arrives in theatres on July 29, 2016. You can also watch the trailer below and visit the website at www.gleasonmovie.com.