Friday, May 04, 2007

Film Review: The Power of the Game

One of the movies playing right now at the Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan is The Power Of The Game, a documentary by Michael Apted. He has previously made over 60 documentaries, features & TV shows. His best known work is with the series commonly known as Seven Up! This was a look at a group of British 7 year olds from many walks of life, who have now been followed through life with more documentaries coming every 7 years with 14 up, 21 up, 28 up etc. Apted took over the series at "14". His feature films include The World Is Not Enough (James Bond), Coal Miners Daughter, Amazing Grace, & Gorillas In The Mist. He is working right now on the second Chronicles Of Narnia film.
This new film is a look at the social and cultural aspects tied to the world's game, and the stories he tells all lead up to last summers World Cup in Germany.
Dave Brett Wasser who reviews this film for us is the man behind the excellent Historic Soccer Videotapes website that collects footage from around the world, and features a great catalog of the North American Soccer League matches. Thanks to Dave for writing this for us. Watch for the film in your area soon.

Film Review: The Power of the Game
By Guest Reviewer Dave Brett Wasser

This week I went to the premiere of "The Power of the Game" at the Tribeca Film Festival here in New York City.

I would say the film is good, but not great. The film makers certainly get an A for effort. They travelled all around the world to interview players and fans of the game. They show the atmosphere outside stadiums in South Africa, Iran, and the USA, and they show the ambiance at the World Cup in Germany.

This is a nice film. However, most of the material it covers is stuff that we, as soccer fans, have seen many times. I get the feeling that this movie would seem more insightful to people who are not soccer fans than to those of us who are fans. (Yes, I recognize that people who are not fans may not be interested in seeing it at all.)

The film spends a lot of time in South Africa. You see how miserable they were when their country was eliminated from contention for the 2006 World Cup. At least they have the 2010 World Cup to look forward to, although you have to wonder if the country will be ready. Their stadiums are not in the greatest condition.

The film also shows how women in Iran love the game, but they aren't allowed to attend the matches. They interview one woman who is allowed into a game only because she is a journalist. I suppose you can be happy that she broke through an institution heretofore restricted to men. But actually you just feel sad that she lives in a theocracy where women are treated like dirt.

In the United States they show the USA's 2-0 victory over Mexico in Columbus in 2005. Sam's Army members sing "You can stick your sombrero up your ass" and everyone has a good time. They also show Landon Donovan walking down a street, completely unrecognized by the pedestrians around him. Soccer has a long way to go in this country, but we knew that already.

The only disturbing part of the film is the segment on racism in European football. There are fans who give the fascist salute, and make an idiotic monkey chant for some of the black players. At least FIFA is trying to put a stop to this nonsense.

This film is worth seeing. But for a truly revealing documentary about soccer, check out "The Game of Their Lives" about the amazing North Korean team at the 1966 World Cup. Unfortunately, it is not on DVD, but it shows up on the Sundance Channel now and then. Another great film you should not miss is "Once In A Lifetime" the documentary about the New York Cosmos. That one is on DVD.

Speaking of the Cosmos, after the film I got to talk to Bruce Arena. I asked him why he never played in the NASL. He told me that in the early 70s Gordon Bradley offered him a contract to play for the Cosmos. Bruce said "I turned it down because they didn't offer me enough money. So I played professional lacrosse instead."
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