An unauthorized, unlicensed, gonzo pastiche, the 19-minute mockumentary I’m Keith Hernandez combines elements of Seinfeld, pornography, hair-dye commercials, anti-drug public-service announcements, and footage of the 1986 world-champion Mets to piece together a movie that swerves between love letter to and indictment of Keith Hernandez, the beloved Gold Glove first basemen and current Mets broadcaster. But it’s mainly a paean to the man, his machismo, his mustache.
Using professional voice-over narration and other staples of the documentary format, the film explores the on-field heroics and off-field drug problems of Hernandez, portraying him as having a superhuman capacity for making the big play and abusing substances without lasting consequence. It also presents blatant falsehoods as fact: Keith Hernandez, as far we know, did not play a role in the Iran-contra affair.
And although I’m Keith Hernandez is a bit of a postmodern mash-up, the film’s creator has a decidedly old-school plan for distributing it: a street-art campaign and sharing. Robert Perri isn’t willing to post his underground creation on YouTube or another site that would shoot it around the globe in an instant. He wants his mockumentary to reach people the same way Jerky Boys tapes or Heavy Metal Parking Lot were disseminated in the good old days of analog: from hand to hand, from person to person, from old fan to potential future fan.
“It’s so much more interesting when people pass it along to each other and they get the excitement of that reaction when they show it, because that’s what’s so exciting to me,” says Perri, a 28-year-old raised in Northport, Long Island, but now living in Los Angeles. “People who have it and own it like to show it. I’m sure they’ve seen it a million times. But part of the excitement for them is having this movie to show people so they can watch people’s reactions. That’s something I sort of want to keep.”
Perri says he’s trying to explore how advertising works, how heroes are created, and how men use athletes and porn stars as surrogates for real experience.
“I think when you’re watching pornography, you’re plugging yourself into this surrogate male,” Perri says. “You’re sort of putting yourself in the position of the male. Those were the ideas spreading out across the film: pornography, sports, advertising for fucking mustache gel or whatever. Tying all those things together was for me at the core of the project.”
The fashion world is often cited as influencing women to develop bulimia and other eating disorders, Perri said, but what shapes the psyche of the male couch-potato sports fan?
“You want to be like Keith Hernandez,” Perri says. “Keith Hernandez drinks Budweiser, so you just sit on your couch watching Keith Hernandez, pounding down eight beers. You’re going in the other direction, man.”
Though some Met fans have already greeted the film with revulsion, I’m Keith Hernandez will probably find its greatest appeal among those old enough to remember the Mets’ glorious run at a championship. And though he tries to grapple with his own fascination with Hernandez and some other thorny issues, Perri says his psychotic sliver of cinema should at least be good for a few laughs.
“A lot of people tell me that I’m full of shit, and that I’m a totally pretentious asshole when I’m talking about some little Keith Hernandez film,” Perri says. “I’d like people to come to those ideas from the film, but if they don’t, I don’t care—I just want them to have a good time when they’re watching it.”