Just to earn my movie review merit badge before I head off to the K&S Film Festival and blog about that for a week, I thought I would review a documentary that I recently watched. It’s called FC Barcelona Confidential as well as FC Barcelona: The Inside Story, depending on where you’re looking.
Directed by Justin Webster and Daniel Hernández, this 2004 documentary looks at the first year of Joan Laporta’s reign as president of FC Barcelona from a very inside perspective. The team was granted amazing access to Laporta, his team, and the club throughout the year, starting from the night they won the election. From the outset, it is obvious that Laporta, then vice president Sandro Rosell, Marc Ingla, and the rest of the board are aware they are being filmed, but the crew still managed to capture some very heartfelt moments, such as when Laporta, in the middle of the season with the team struggling to win matches and the media breathing down his neck, stands alone in a darkened Camp Nou on the presidential balcony and screams “Barça!” at the empty stadium.
Whether you’re a Barça fan or just someone interested in the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of international organizations (and FCB is certainly that now), this documentary provides you with the opportunity to watch as a determined group of businessmen take an aging institution from the brink of financial ruin and force it into modernity. Still, this is not a rags-to-riches story, but rather a riches-to-more-riches story, with the documentary making it clear early on that these were new wealthy elite of Barcelona taking on this project from the old, landed elite on the up-swell of populism, rather than a grassroots organization devoted to the people, as some would have you believe.
The political machinations, the egos, and the basic humanity of the principle players of that moment in FCB’s history play out in front of the camera as they do in all documentaries. Laporta’s fight with the Boixos Nois and his “almost” encounter with their thugs makes him seem both more human and somewhat unsettlingly macho, but also speak to the intensity with which local society and these men in particular approach the subject of their business. Rosell’s eventual departure from the club (and now his resurrection as the front runner to replace Laporta in this year’s elections) start as merely tiny grumblings in a board meeting and grow ever more vociferous throughout the film, the tension rising as the viewer recognizes fewer and fewer “moments” between Laporta and Rosell and more and more disputes in meetings.
At 81 minutes, the film is just long enough to provide in-depth information while still remaining watchable. The camera work itself is occasionally disjointed and sometimes gives off a disagreeable “hidden camera” feel, such as in the contract negotiation scene with Ronaldinho’s agent (his brother, Roberto), but every now and that approach stumbles upon the funny moments that make up reality, such as when Laporta is micro-managing his secretary as she types up a contract and Ronaldinho wanders into the background while juggling a ball in the hallway.