Meet Rueben Singleterry
We have just released a short documentary following my cousin, Rueben Singleterry. I can’t believe it’s been over a year since we’ve produced a short documentary film. We’ve been so busy working on Tía Chuck, our feature length documentary following artist Chuck Ramirez. We were actually in New York this past November filming interviews for Chuck’s documentary when I got the phone call from Rueben’s Mother, Roxanne, about this project. Roxanne told me that Rueben had gone through a difficult illness and they were trying figure out a way to share his story. In September Rueben had been diagnosed with encephalitis, a rare virus which causes inflammation in the brain and the resulting seizures he endured nearly took his life.
Film Still, Rueben is cared for in a hospital ICU
Film Still, Rueben’s Grandfather holds his hand in the hospital
I couldn’t believe this had happened to Rueben, but what amazed me most was how passionate he was about sharing his story. When we visited Rueben at the end of November, we were completely surprised by how much he had matured in the short time since we’d last seen him. He looked straight into our camera and began telling us what had happened to him the previous months. Mark and I were in awe of his grace and courage as he described to us his near death experience in the hospital.
Film Still, Rueben Singleterry’s Interview
We have had the privilege of interviewing dozens of subjects over the past several years, but nothing could prepared us for the reality of what Rueben had to say. I cried several times as he spoke in his interview. He described all the details of his illness and his struggles to get back the life he had before he was diagnosed with encephalitis. We knew right away that this was going to be a very different film than we had ever made. It was going to follow my family as they worked together to support Rueben’s recovery and ultimately his passion to pursue basketball.
Film Still, Rueben is examined by Jerry J. Tomasovic, MD
We followed a lot of emotional moments during the course of working on this film, the first was a visit with Dr. Tomasovic. Rueben had been waiting for months to find out if he was going to be physically able to play basketball again. His school required a release form and Rueben’s reaction to Dr. Tomasovic’s decision to write one for him was priceless. That note meant so much to the family, because they knew that not only was Rueben going to be able to pursue his passion for playing basketball, but that he was finally healthy enough to do so.
Film Still, Mother and Son embrace after an important Doctor’s Visit
Film Still, Jarrett Turner works with Rueben as part of his Mentoring Program Ballinisahabit
The first moments of film we captured with Rueben was a basketball practice he had with his trainer, Jarrett Turner. Jarrett and Rueben had already developed a close friendship when we began filming, so he was more than willing to come by and help us out on our first day. The pair worked on drills as the sun set in Rueben’s neighborhood. We continued to follow Rueben’s after school training with Jarrett as part of his Mentoring Program, Ballinisahabit. It was wonderful to see Jarrett as someone who could relate to Rueben on different levels, as a friend, a trainer, and a mentor. Jarrett was also one of the first people to learn about Rueben’s struggles and to become inspired by his dedication.
Rueben holds a Basketball given to him by Jarrett Turner on his first High School game of the season
Another emotional moment was Rueben’s 15th birthday party. It reminded us of a scene from one of our favorite documentary films, Hoop Dreams, which chronicles the lives of two teenagers who dream of one day achieving NBA stardom. In both scenes you’re hit with the realization that these young men are very lucky to be able to blow out their candles.
Film Still, Rueben on his 15th Birthday
“I hope that this inspires anyone who went through something like this or is going through a rough time or who has doubts or is losing faith in life, to never give up.”
– Rueben Singleterry
Rueben has such a natural charisma and confidence that made our job easier. I know he has a tremendous amount of potential that we just barely tapped into for this film. Thank you to my family, my friends, and everyone who supported this film and helped make it possible.
Rueben Singleterry with Director Angela Walley
It means a lot to me to share a story from my family, so I hope you’ll find this film inspiring!