Berlinale | Festival sends soccer cinema soaring

Mongolian falconer must see the World Cup final. Link to Newsweek International article.Berlin | At least seven entries can be added as examples of world cinema’s interest in football (see our cinema page). All are currently screening at the Berlinale, the 56th Berlin International Film Festival. Gerd Graus, media chief of the German World Cup organizing committee, describes cultural connection with the sport as broad.

The last few years we’ve seen increasing interest, among intellectuals especially. There are many more published books, theater performances, museum exhibits—all about soccer. Now with the Cup nearly here, the interest is high enough that people will go see the films.

“Soccer is an excuse, a reason to go ahead,” says Chema Rodrí­guez, director of the documentary Estrellas de la lí­nea, about sex workers in Guatemala City who take up the game (see Nov 30 2004). The other films are:

La gran final (The great match) | In this German- and Spanish-produced feature, director Gerardo Olivares tracks Mongolian nomads, a Saharan camel caravan and Amazonians as they log the kilometers to see the 2002 World Cup final.

Offside | Jafar Panahi, Iranian director of The Circle, again takes up the cause of women’s rights in their desire to break regulations against women’s attendance at football (see Jun 9 2005). In this neo-realist, pseudo-documentary feature, women disguised as men attempt to see the World Cup qualifier versus Bahrain on Jun 8 2005 at Azadi Stadium in Tehran.

Once in a Lifetime | The documentary, directed by Paul Crowder and John Dower, tells the story of the North American Soccer League’s Cosmos: when soccer, briefly, became the glamour sport of New York.

Strákarnir okkar (Eleven men out) | Icelandic director Róbert Douglas portrays fictional KR football star í“ttar Thor. In an offhand comment to the press, Thor mentions that he is gay. “It’s a soccer movie without the soccer,” Douglas says.

Warum halb vier? (Why three-thirty?) | Director Lars Pape inquires after the German fascination with football in this documentary. Pape interviews actor Joachim Król, who remembers seeing his father cry for the first time on his favorite club’s relegation.

Zion and His Brother | A film by Israeli director Eran Merav concerning a boy’s quest to recover stolen soccer shoes.

On top of these North American and European productions comes word from Bollywood that Jackie Chan and Danny DeVito are considering starring roles in Iqbal Rizvi‘s 90 Mins, described as a Bend It Like Beckham–like vehicle depicting two school teams playing for a cash prize.

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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