Cinema | For cinéastes, Fußballfilmfestival offers definitive fixture list

As one should not judge a book by the cover, one should not judge a film by its trailer. But the trailer for Maradona, la mano de Dios, which opened the 11mm Fußballfilmfestival in Berlin on Apr 4, sounds a warning: handle with care.

Reviewer Mereghetti Paolo of Corriere della Serra notes director Marco Risi‘s explicit attempt to structure the biopic, released in Italy in 2007, as a tale of two persons: the publicly worshiped creator and free spirit—he of the flowing mane—for FC Napoli and Argentina and the fallible human vulnerable to drug addiction and infidelity. “It’s not a masterwork,” says La Repubblica.

Maradona features Australian-born Marco Leonardi
in the title role. The star of Cinema Paradiso and
Like Water for Chocolate has been freed, reviewers
write, of the need to replicate Maradona’s physical
mastery on the pitch—directors use game footage
instead—and can concentrate on the psychological

Quite literally, Diego Maradona‘s life has been scored, touchstone moments of angst accompanied by strings and low timpani rumbles. Argentine and Italian production crew and promoters have also realized the semiotic potential in the word Dio (Dios in Spanish). Via typographic jiggery-pokery, the “io” becomes the number 10. In Italian, io means “I,” harmonizing nicely with one of the movie’s trailer-made dialogue fragments: “I am Maradona, and I can do whatever I want.” That Maradona correlates with deity is a leap already taken by fans worldwide and a Rosario-based church.

Sadly, many of the festival’s entries will only be available in the United States in trailer form or, perhaps, as stragglers at domestic film fests. Such appears to be the fate greeting Sixty Six (UK, 2006), not included at the Berlin event but screening Apr 5 as part of the Vancouver Jewish Film Festival. The film from Paul Weiland stars Helena Bonham Carter (A Room with a View, Howards End) as the mother of Bernie, 12, whose bar mitzvah is regrettably scheduled for 30 Jul 1966: the day of the England-Germany World Cup final. The trailer, as always, is available online, as well as a clip with Bonham Carter proving the range of her acting talents—simultaneously dangling a cigarette and launching into a backyard kickabout.

Twenty-eight feature films and documentaries appear at the 11mm event, with a distinct accent on Maradona and various German club sides. We exclude from the list below 11 short films screening Apr 7; these are described on the festival website. (We are most intrigued by The Rolex of Johan Cruyff, directed by Johan Kramer of The Other Final.) Links to film websites or blogs and to YouTube trailers are provided where available.

2008 11mm Fußballfilmfestival lineup

  • Die 11 des VfL (The 11 of VfL) (Germany 2007, dir. Ben Redelings) | Wizened veterans of VfL Bochum hash over the past 35 years. | trailer
  • 321: Juan Carlos Plata (Guatemala 2006, dir. Juan Jose Marroquin) | Documents the Guatemalan striker’s pursuit of a national record 321st goal, to the thumps of DJ Sasha. | trailer
  • 60 Jahre 1.FC Köln (60 Years of 1.FC Köln) (Germany 2008) | A 60th-anniversary video produced by the Cologne side.
  • Die besten Frauen der Welt (The Best Women in the World) (Germany 2007, dir. Britta Becker) | See Jan 7. | trailer
  • Blau-Weiß (Blue and White) (Germany 2007, dir. Jamie McDine) | Former East German powerhouse 1.FC Magdeburg seeks promotion to the second division. | trailer
  • El camino de San Diego (The Road to Saint Diego) (Argentina 2006, dir. Carlos Sorin) | Maradona-obsessed forest worker Tati Benítez finds a tree root reminiscent of an exultant El Pibe and seeks out an ailing Maradona to let him have a look. | trailer
  • O casamento de Romeu e Julieta (Romeo and Juliet Get Married) (Brazil 2005, dir. Bruno Barreto) | Romeo and Juliet recast featuring families divided by support of São Paulo’s Palmeiras and Corinthians. | trailer
  • Fan-Demanium (Germany 2007, dir. Matthias Visser) | Winner of the 11mm Golden Eleven award in 2007. Ten supporters from 10 countries explain their footballing passions.
  • Football Under Cover (Germany 2008, dir. David Assmann and Ayat Najafi) | See 29 Sept 07. | trailer
  • Frei:Gespielt: Mehmet Scholl—über das Spiel hinaus (Played Free: Mehmet Scholl—The Game from Outside) (Germany 2007, dir. Eduard Augustin and Ferdinand Neumayr) | Iconoclastic footballer and punster is remembered in the last 48 hours of his Bayern Munich career. | trailer
  • Fünfte Herren—Fußball pur (Gentlemen of the Fifth—Purely Football) (Germany 2007, dir. Volker Redeker) | The fifth-division team of FC St. Pauli seeks promotion.
  • Gib mich die Kirsche—Die 1. deutsche Fußballrolle (Give Me the Cherry—German Football in the First Place) (Germany 2006, dir. Oliver Gieth and Dieter Hüls) | Sentimental trip through the Franz Beckenbauer–paced glory years of German football, including the 1966, 1970 and 1974 World Cups. | trailer
  • Gigante—Como o Inter conquistou o mundo (Gigante—How Inter Conquered the World) (Brazil, dir. Gustavo Spolidoro) | Follows Sport Club Internacional (O Colorado) of Porto Alegre to victory over Barcelona in the 2006 FIFA World Club Cup. The film takes its name from the nickname (“Gigante”) for SC Internacional’s home ground, Estádio Beira-Rio (River Bank).
  • Gilles (Belgium 2005, dir. Jan Verheyen) | After his father/trainer dies suddenly, 12-year-old Gilles must find his way in the world.
  • Irgendwo da unten—Ein Jahr erste Liga (Somewhere Down There—A Year in the First League) (Germany 2002, dir. Dirk Laabs and Julia Möhn) | Covers FC St. Pauli‘s last season in the Bundesliga, 2001–02.
  • Kicken für die Krone—Liechtenstein. Elf Dörfer. Eine Nationalelf. (Kicking for the Crown—Liechtenstein: 11 Villages, One National Team) (Liechtenstein and Switzerland 2008, dir. Sebastian Frommelt and Sigvard Wohlwend) | Follows Liechtenstein’s Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. (See also Joe Westhead‘s article at Pitch Invasion, “Filming the Rise of Liechtenstein,” 12 Dec 07.)
  • Maradona, la mano di Dio (Maradona, the Hand of God) (Italy 2007, dir. Marco Risi) | El Pibe, having given his consent, gets the biopic treatment. | trailer
  • Montréal Planète foot (Montreal: Planet Football) (Canada 2005, dir. Yann Langevin) | Depicts the multicultural phenomenon of summer soccer leagues in Quèbec.
  • Once in a Lifetime (US 2006, dir. John Dower and Paul Crowder) | The movie about the Pelé-era Cosmos that does not feature Pelé. | trailer
  • La otra copa (The Other Cup) (Argentina 2006, dir. Damián Cukerion) | The documentary, in similar fashion to Homeless FC (Hong Kong), Downtown Dawgs (Canada) and Kicking It (US), treats Argentina’s entry in the 2004 Homeless World Cup. | trailer
  • The Penalty King (UK 2006, dir. Chris Cook) | Struck down in his prime by glaucoma, Lee Vaughan (Nick Bartlett) seeks a return to the glories of pub football. | trailer

  • A 1920s silent film, screened at the 2007 11mm festival, receives accompaniment from chamber players. The first interstice reads: “At the other end of the city a game of the famous sport club International takes place at the same time.” Trainer Mac Lawrence takes a fag break—no doubt well-deserved—then we read: “A ball, which flew outside the playing field, returns in an unexplainable way.”
  • Rot-Weiß Essen—Der Film (Germany 2008, dir. Hardy Hausberg) | A history of the Ruhr-based club.
  • Salir pitando (Losing the Whistle) (Spain 2007, dir. Álvaro Fernández Armero) | Referee José Luís returns from a months-long depression to take control in a La Liga decider. A comedy. | trailer
  • Spielverderber (Match Destroyers) (Germany 2007, dir. Georg Nonnenmacher and Henning Drechsler) | A documentary for the referee’s referee, dissecting the rigors of the job from training to match.
  • Streets of Rio (original title, Show de bola) (Brazil 2005, dir. Alexander Pickl) | Football prospect falls in with favela-based gangs. | trailer
  • Die Wilden Kerle 5 (The Wild Ones 5) (Germany 2008, dir. Joachim Masannek) | A series of football films for children that appear to blend elements of Shaolin Soccer, Mad Max and Bend It Like Beckham. | trailer
  • Wir sind Schalke (We Are Schalke) (Germany 2007, dir. Thorsten Poppe and Mareike Wilms) | Two Schalke supporters, Ivica Marijanovic and Bilal Issa, experience the heartbreak as the side throws away the Bundesliga title at the end of the 2006–07 season. “Do you actually realize what you do to your fans?” asks newspaper Bild.
  • Les yeux dans les bleus II (Eyes in Blue II) (France 2002, dir. Stéphane Meunier) | The successor to the oft-satirized hagiographic film treatment of 1998, this version covers Les Bleus’ somewhat less successful World Cup campaign in 2002.

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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