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At Cannes, filmmakers discover the beautiful game

Category: The Game of Their Lives News
Article Date: May 17, 2005 | Publication: Reuters | Author: Terry Moseley

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Soccer films have stormed the Cannes Film Festival this year with cinematic interest in the world's most popular sport reaching fever pitch ahead of the 2006 World Cup.

Filmmakers have found it difficult in the past to capture the thrills of the game, the energy of packed stadiums or to re-enact memorable scenes. But football's expanding international popularity has prompted them to have another go.

Soccer has found its way into dramas, documentaries and comedies at Cannes.

Brazilian football legend Pele, in Cannes for the world premiere of a documentary about his life "Pele Forever," said he did not know why it had taken so long to get the beautiful game into cinemas.

"It's amazing and I've discussed the question many times -- in Brazil, football is the top sport but we never have any films about it," Pele told Reuters.

"I don't know why until now they didn't start sooner. I used to talk to my friends who are directors about why there are no football films. Now they are starting to look more for that type of story. I love the material."

Films at Cannes include "Real, The Movie," a documentary-style film mixed with drama about Real Madrid, and Spanish comedies "The Longest Penalty in the World" and "Romeo and Juliet Get Married" -- a strained marriage between a Barcelona fan and a Real Madrid fan.

"The popularity of soccer just keeps growing all the time, across to Asia and even in the United States," said Simon de Santiago, director of production for the Spanish distributor Sogepaq, which holds the worldwide rights to the movie "Real."

He's been swamped by demand for the film.


"I'm not sure why there were so few soccer films in the past, but a lot are coming now. Soccer is an attractive topic for filmmakers. There's a huge fan base in almost every country. I can imagine the 2006 World Cup is one reason behind this."

Money is surely another.

Two recent films were big commercial successes. Britain's "Bend it Like Beckham" about a girl who idolises David Beckham and goes against her traditional family to play soccer, and Sonke Wortmann's "The Miracle of Bern" about West Germany winning the 1954 World Cup against long odds.

Pele, who featured with Michael Caine in the 1981 soccer film "Victory," suggested Beckham was a factor in the new cinematic interest in football.

"After (Victory) we had no major films. Then with the coming of Beckham they look for that type of story," he said.

Soccer also plays a supporting role in several films at the festival. "Joyeux Noel" (Merry Christmas) features a scene where British, French and German soldiers play a match in the no-man's land between their trenches during the World War One Christmas truce.

Other football films at Cannes include "She's the Man," about a teenage girl who pretends to be a boy to play on the school soccer team, and "Now and Forever" about a 1949 plane crash that killed an Italian soccer team.

"The Great Match" relates the struggles of three fans to watch the 2002 World Cup final in remote regions, and "The Game of their Lives" tells how the United States beat England 1-0 in the 1950 World Cup.

There are also several soccer-themed films in the works.

"Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait" is being put together from film from 15 cameras that followed midfielder Zinedine Zidane for an entire Real Madrid match. It includes shots from two high-definition zoom cameras only used by the U.S. military.


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