SXSW 2017: “Disgraced”: MOVIE REVIEW

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(Photo via Showtime)

Growing up and living in Austin, there were always perceptions that many of us had about Baylor University. The large Baptist college in Waco was always a mysterious one, and one that I’d pass a few times each year driving up I-35. The past year or so has not been too kind of Baylor, as it’s football program has been embroiled in controversy surrounding allegations of sexual assault toward dozens and dozens of women in and around the university. It’s a story that continues to fascinate as well as infuriate, and one that’s still being written to this very day. Before that controversy, Baylor was involved with another equally complicated and infuriating one involving the murder of former basketball player Patrick Dennehy, which is the subject of Pat Kondelis’s documentary Disgraced. The film made its world premiere at SXSW this year, and it’ll be airing on the Showtime network on March 31st. This is one wild and fascinating ride of a film, and if true crime documentaries are your thing, I highly recommend checking this one out.

To give a little bit of background (without revealing too much), Patrick Dennehy was a Baylor basketball player who was murdered by a fellow teammate in the summer of 2003. While they end up finding out who did it, the murder ends up opening up a large can of worms that exposes some corruption, lying, deceit, and so on from both Baylor University and it’s basketball program, primarily from then-head coach Dave Bliss.

That’s all I can really say without getting into too many details, because it’s best to go into this movie without knowing as little as possible about this film. And frankly, there might be a reason why I wasn’t aware of this case prior to its announcement as a film playing at this year’s SXSW. The people being interviewed at the very beginning of the film make a point to say that this has been brushed under the rug. One person says it was “wiped from the pages of history”. Baylor University continues to be very hush-hush about the matter even to this day, which might give a reason behind their dealing with this recent sexual assault scandal. It’s a university that’s looked the other way on issues that could tarnish the school’s shiny Christian image.

Pat Kondelis (a local Austin filmmaker) does a terrific job in investigating/presenting this story. We see interviews from family members/friends of Patrick, along with former coaches, reporters, and even Dave Bliss, who resigned in disgrace because of this scandal. When the subjects aren’t exactly being truthful or transparent with their stories of the events, Kondelis will follow-up with questions, and not just let them continue to tell one story while another tells another completely different one. For this being his first feature, I was really impressed with his work, and I hope to see Kondelis make other equally fascinating and invigorating films.

As I said earlier, if you weren’t able to catch Disgraced during this year’s fest, it’ll be airing on Showtime on Friday, March 31st. I highly recommend that you set your DVR for this one, as it’s a true crime doc that’s among some of the very best in this recent subgenre. It’s a procedural but it’s also very entertaining and investing as an audience member. I’m hoping that since this is airing on Showtime that it’ll find an audience that not only finds these types of films interesting, but sports fans such as myself that have always wondered about what really happened up in Waco all those years ago. You’ll be really impressed by this one.

Final Rating:

A

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