One Man and his Shoes
Online on BFI Player from 13th October 2020 6.30pm until 16th October 2020 6.30pm
From the mid-80s through to the 90s, NBA’s Michael Jordan was revered across the globe. The sportsman was untouchable in his field, a household name off the court and an icon of young African Americans across all 50 states. However, despite the fame, despite the glory, there has always been one thing that has shone as bright as the man himself for the last 35 years: Nike Air Jordans.
The legendary trainer brand has reigned supreme over the shoe industry like a titan decade after decade, demanding the attention and money of fans around the world. However, Yemi Bamiro’s documentary One Man and His Shoes looks deeper into the marketing of the sneakers. Revelling in the footwear’s success, the film illustrates how the model became an overnight phenomenon and an incredibly lucrative investment for both Nike and the star, but it also highlights some of the terrible societal side effects that can occur when something so highly valued becomes an obsession or necessity to some individuals.
Telling the history of the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan and Air Jordan’s promotional campaign all in one bundle, this feature is without a doubt one for basketball fans, with contributors from a variety of fields sharing knowledge of the historical context and offering expert insight into the dangerous criminal activity that is born through such a profitable product. Michael Jordan helped to bridge a divide between black athletes and mainstream culture, but the price was the commercial exploitation of his trainer brand.
Bamiro reveals with artistic flair how over the years, collectors have hoarded thousands of pairs of Jordans, with one admitting to amassing over a million dollars’ worth of merchandise. This is a gasp-worthy discovery, but more disturbing is the how a musically upbeat, funky animated journey through time becomes a more serious piece, looking into the assaults and murders that have happened when those with a thirst for the trainers do everything they can to possess them. It is at this point that One Man and His Shoes becomes slightly conflicted in the message it’s trying to put across. The tempo and pace suffer as a result, and the documentary doesn’t exactly flow effortlessly into the study into the murder of Joshua Woods, although the subject matter remains just as fascinating.
It becomes unclear whether the story of the film belongs to Michael Jordan or victims like Woods, but nonetheless, the feature powerfully raises awareness of a danger that has surfaced due to the marketing campaigns of Nike, something that the brand have remained noticeably silent on to this day. Air Jordans kicked off a sneaker boom the ripples of which are still felt today, revolutionising the concept of sporting apparel forever. By combining elements of reality with the dream-like state of tv commercials and retro footage, Bamiro tidily exhibits a deeper message with the 82-minute run time. If you love NBA and television series like The Last Dance, you’ll easily love this documentary, but One Man and His Shoes is more than the title suggests: it’s a tale of the good, the bad and the greedy in the sports and clothing industry which examines the shocking underbelly of commercialism and gluttony.
One Man and his Shoes is released in select cinemas on 23rd October 2020.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2020 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for One Man and his Shoes here: