Malice at the Palace, which revisits the Pacers/Pistons game, is the first film in a five-part weekly Untold documentary series streaming on Netflix.
One can look at Untold serving as Netflix’s response to ESPN’S 30 for 30 series. After all, they are both a stand-alone documentary series. Chapman Way and Maclain Way developed the series, which aims to go behind the headlines with the people who made the news. This initial edition offers five different documentaries. Is there potential for a second season’s worth of films? Time will certainly tell. But for now, let’s take a trip back to November 19, 2004 for a moment that would change NBA history. It’s one of those moments in sports history that nobody can really forget what happened between the Indiana Pacers or the Detroit Pistons. This film takes what we know but digs deeper into what took place.
Malice at the Palace gets the key people on camera to talk about the big fight. The former Pacers include Metta Saniford-Artest, Reggie Miller, and Jermaine O’Neal. A few fans are on camera but then-ESPN sideline reporter Jim Gray is also interviewed at length. The film is only 69 minutes so you’re not going to get the type of material that one does in the two-hour documentaries. However, it’s enough for the filmmakers to get straight to the bottom. If you were living in a cave, Sandiford-Artest committed a hard foul against Pistons center Ben Wallace. A Pistons fan threw a beverage cup at Sandiford-Artest and this would result in a number of Pacers players entering the stands. That’s the gist of what happened in a nutshell.
Malice at the Palace features never-before-seen footage. Audiences have never seen this footage on ESPN or other sports media outlets. Surprising, right? Media coverage would follow the fight and not in a good way. The documentary doesn’t interview everyone but it’s the biggest project since the Jonathan Abrams wrote the oral history for Grantland in 2012.
Metta Sandiford-Artest has changed his name once again. You would not know this from watching the film. Listen, I can understand why teammates Reggie Miller and Jermaine O’Neal keep referring to him by his given name. It’s how they came to know him. Their actions are no less wrong than deadnaming a transgender person. Moreover, the press notes and photo captions aren’t any better. One uses his original name while photos don’t account for the second name change. But speaking as a transgender woman, it gives off a bad message. For instance, can I trust them to be an ally when they can’t even acknowledge Sandiford-Artest changing his legal name in interviews? I know it’s an adjustment because I’ve been there myself with the whole changing name thing. It doesn’t make what they do any less wrong.
Malice at the Palace may not be a game-changing film but it shows that Netflix has potential to rival ESPN in the sports documentary department.
DIRECTOR: Floyd Russ
FEATURING: Metta Saniford-Artest, Reggie Miller, Jermaine O’Neal, Jim Gray