Review by Sean Boelman
It’s surprising that some of the wildest things happen in the most seemingly innocuous areas, like the world of high school sports. The punnily-titled BS High tells an insane story in an extremely cinematic way, which is surprising considering that it doesn’t really convince viewers of the impact of its events.
The film tells the story of the Bishop Sycamore scandal, in which a supposed high school football team was exposed as a fraud, committing all sorts of wrongs against its students. This story went viral just a couple years ago as the organization was subject to increased scrutiny, and this documentary recaps the scandal quite well.
Throughout the movie, we get to see interviews with various parties involved, from the journalists who broke the story about Bishop Sycamore to the athletes who were victimized by this con. It feels like a very thought-out balanced way of telling this story, using it as a cautionary tale of what happens when something sounds too good to be true.
However, perhaps the most shocking thing about this documentary is that the perpetrators behind this scandal were not just willing, but seemingly eager to participate in the film. These people are so oblivious to how badly they are exploiting these kids that they are proud to talk about it, and this makes the movie all the more disgusting and disturbing.
That being said, it feels like the film does not point a strong enough finger at the people and institutions responsible for these atrocities being able to happen against these kids. Of course, the founders and coaching staff of the “academy” are the main culprits, but the movie does not blame the legal system beyond saying that no laws existed, as they figured no one would be ridiculous — or evil — enough to attempt to pull something like this off. As such, it doesn’t really feel like this documentary will be able to inspire any real change.
Nevertheless, there’s no denying that the documentary is entertaining, if only because of the absolutely wild developments that happen in the story. As the injustices committed by these con artists become more and more egregious, audiences will become increasingly entertained by the absurdity of the situation.
It also helps that, like many other films made by HBO Documentaries, BS High has slick editing and high production values. Directors Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe cannily realize that this story doesn’t necessarily impact a ton of people, so they find another way to make the audience feel the stakes.
BS High is an entertaining documentary, and while it doesn’t always prove to the audience why they should be watching this story, they will be hooked to the screen nonetheless. It’s the type of “comfort food” weird-but-true documentaries that viewers love to stream.
BS High screens at the 2023 Tribeca Festival, which runs June 7-18 in NYC and June 19 through July 2 online.