The monumental documentary created by filmmaker Branson Wright, “Pass Interference: The Davone Bess Story,” chronicles the life of one of Oakland’s most talented athletes, who shot to superstardom in the NFL. Then his life crumbled when he had to come face to face with his own mental illness.
This film is a rags to riches story with a twist and higher meaning. Also, Davone Bess will be attending the San Francisco Film Festival to talk about “Pass Interference” after the screening. I caught up with filmmaker Branson Wright to talk about the motivation for doing the film, mental illness, a hometown hero and more …
M.O.I. JR: What made you want to do a documentary on the career of Davone Bess? Why is he important?
Branson Wright: I met Davone while covering the Cleveland Browns for The Cleveland Plain Dealer. We’d often have conversations not always related to football. I found him engaging and thoughtful. Once we developed a relationship and while he was going through some personal issues, we began to talk about his life and how a film could help him and others who suffer from mental illness.
M.O.I. JR: Can you talk a little bit about Devone’s career on the field?
Branson Wright: Davone has always been a talented football player – from one of the best high school football players in the Bay Area to an outstanding college football player at Hawaii. He was not drafted, but he became a solid slot receiver in the NFL.
M.O.I. JR: Can you talk a little about his life off of the field?
Branson Wright: Davone lost a college scholarship when he was sentenced to about 20 months in a juvenile facility. He was incarcerated because he allowed a friend to put stolen items in his car. Davone began to play flag football at the facility and played so well that his high school coach made contact with the University of Hawaii who would grant him a scholarship.
M.O.I. JR: Why did you make mental illness a big part of this film?
Branson Wright: Untreated mental illness led to the end of Davone’s football career. Davone is like millions of Americans who suffer from some form of mental illness that goes untreated. I wanted to peel back the layers of an athlete and show that everyone is human despite their occupation and or social status.
M.O.I. JR: What do you hope people get from this film?
Branson Wright: That mental illness affects everyone and seeking help is not a reflection of weakness but freedom.
M.O.I. JR: How does it feel to be selected to screen in the SF Black Film Fest?
Branson Wright: I’m honored. I’m excited. I’m thankful.
M.O.I. JR: In your opinion, how did growing up in Oakland affect Davone’s personality?
Branson Wright: No different than anyone else in America or from anyone else in the world when it comes to how mental illness can affect anyone and all of us no matter where you’re from.
M.O.I. JR: How did college affect Davone’s life?
Branson Wright: That’s a better question for Davone, but I’m sure going away to college helped Davone clear his mind from the troubles he experienced that put him in juvenile detention. Going to college, I’m sure, was also good for him because that’s where he met his wife.
M.O.I. JR: Are you working on any other film? How can people stay in touch with you?