Across the sports landscape, the 2013 NBA Finals are best remembered for Ray Allen’s clutch jumper in Game 6, which propelled the Miami Heat to a series victory over the San Antonio Spurs, securing back-to-back championships for LeBron James. A Spurs fan since the age of five, producer-director Eva Longoria felt there was another story left to tell about the series that was worth revisiting those dreaded Finals.
“We’ve seen all the documentaries of an athlete overcoming an injury and winning, and then a team facing this crazy opponent and winning, another person being the underdog,” said Longoria at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. “I thought, what if that obstacle was a moral obstacle? Sexism, racism, discrimination?”
Longoria’s new short, ¡Go Sebastien Go! spotlights 11-year-old mariachi Sebastien De La Cruz, also known as “El Charro de Oro.” The San Antonio native was asked by the Spurs to sing the National Anthem at Game 3 of the 2013 Finals. Dressed sharply in his traje, De La Cruz belted out the anthem on the court, sending chills throughout the arena, only to be rewarded by racist vitriol online.
“The thing that rubbed me the worst way, because I’m ninth generation Texan, is his dad served in the Navy for 21 years,” admitted Longoria in New York. “He defended our country for 21 years, and for somebody to call his kid an ‘illegal,’ and ‘beaner,’ after his father sacrificed for us. That to me was unforgiveable.”
At times heavy handed, as most sports docs tend to be, Longoria’s short excels when focused on De La Cruz and his family. Obligatory shots of San Antonio seen though a touristy gaze are given greater weight by the sincerity in Sebastien’s voice and the warmth he exhibits throughout. Particularly effective is the often-acerbic Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich, who acknowledges the influence of the city’s Mexican culture while praising De La Cruz.
“The greatest thing about Sebastian’s story, which Popovich said, was his reaction,” proclaimed Longoria. “His response was just so genuine and eloquent that you go ‘wow!’ He immediately went to a place of compassion as opposed to a place of combating hate with hate, and that’s probably the greatest thing about this story.”
¡Go Sebastien Go! is part of Longoria’s Versus series, a collaboration with ESPN, which includes four additional shorts that the network will run through September.
Watch the short doc in its entirety below or stream it on ESPN.com.