Night 3 of Kicking and Screening was all about the pooface in the middle. I mean the man in the middle. My previous discussion of K&S can be found here, here, and here; tickets for tonight and tomorrow here. Of all the nights, this was the one I was looking forward to the most because the feature, El Arbitro, focused on La Liga; the movie was also made by Justin Webster, who made FC Barcelona Confidential. My review of that movie can be found here.
The night started, however, with a humorous Italian short called, naturally, L’Arbitro (2009, dir: Paolo Zucca). The film follows a ref that is relegated to the lowest division in Sardinia for taking a bribe in a higher league match. In his first match, on a dusty pitch, he is confronted by the absurdity of this league, with its crazy provincialism–old women run onto the field to beat refs with umbrellas, a player attacking his teammate for stealing a sheep–and fanatical devotion to the hometown team. It is the typical experience of a ref–calls elicit death threats from players and the crowd–until he end when he unwittingly becomes involved in the outcome of the match, which has descended into anarchy. It is, really, all just a rehashing of St. Augustine’s quote: “Do not despair: one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume: one of the thieves was damned.” And, indeed, one is saved and one is damned.
Film Grade: 8/10. Funny, intelligent, and full of surprises, the film takes you from the staid backdrop of an Italian bureaucratic bastion to the farmlands of Sardinia, from the suit-and-tie world to the overalls and pitchforks of the world. The rules of the game are, of course, the same throughout–both in life and in football–but with some twists.
The real refs (rather than the reel refs–har har) were on display in El Arbitro (dir: Justin Webster and Eriz Zapiriain), which followed Spanish first division ref Miguel Angel Pérez Lasa from a match in 2008 between Sevilla (with Alves as captain and Keita also on the field) and Villarreal (with Pellegrini as the manager) to two weeks later when he reffed a Catalan derbi at the Camp Nou. The film team had amazing access to the ref and were allowed to film behind-the-scenes as well as on-the-field action that really shows you the rigors and pressures of being a ref: how hard they train, how much they study the game, what they’re like as people, and how they handle in-game situations.
If you’re unfamiliar with who Pérez Lasa is, you may remember him as the guy who sent off Crynaldo against Malaga (here) this past season or from his performances in this year’s Barça matches: @Tenerife (0-5) in January and vs Valladolid (4-0) on the last day. He’s known as an authoritarian ref who metes out punishment fairly willy-nilly (though he only handed out a total of 9 cards in the two Barça matches he officiated this year) and in the film he really does: 13 cards in all, though no reds, for a variety of offensive, including one for Puyol as he subs off and makes a gesture at Pérez Lasa.
Film Grade: 9/10. I’m sure I’m biased here, but this is exactly the type of film that I enjoy. There was almost nothing left out (perhaps a bit more interview with the ref would have been great, but Justin Webster said afterwards in a panel discussion that Pérez Lasa was a terrible interview, so that wasn’t really included and I can’t really blame him for it) and there was so much included that watching it a dozen times would obviously allow you to notice a bunch of things. It was amazing to hear the way the players talk to the ref, trying to convince him of things (Gabi Milito is a master at this), and it was interesting to hear that the refs talk to the captains about keeping their players under control so that they don’t get a second yellow and get sent off. “I’m watching you” was a constant refrain–at least Pérez Lasa was extremely active in talking to the players, but that may come from his authoritarian approach to the game.
The major negative of this movie is that from here on out I’ll want to see this level of access in every match I see. Enough of the Adrian Healeys of the world telling me how things should be! Speaking of, Adrian Healey was there last night and took part in the panel discussion. First of all, I don’t know why I thought Healey was so much older, but I did. He’s not. He’s barely middle aged. Weird. Alfonso Mondelo was also on the panel and it was interesting to hear their various opinions about technology in sport (they came down mostly on the side of being anti-technology).
I won’t write much about technology here because I think that it deserves it’s own post, but I will say that I generally disagree with the idea that technology undermines the spirit of the game. The margins of error involved in technology are real and they should be minimized, of course, but replacing digital margins of error with human margins of error (extra refs, for instance) doesn’t make the errors more acceptable to me.
I spoke with Justin Webster very briefly after the film, but wasn’t able to ask much before he disappeared off to wherever filmmakers go when they’re not making films. Hopefully I’ll see him tonight and will get his opinion on Rosell and Ingla, who he knows from his FC Barcelona Confidential days. Speaking of tonight: tonight is my final night at the film festival and you should go! Tonight I’ll be there with my lovely better half (I think she would claim to be the better 3/4) so you can meet me and the brains behind the operation. Tonight’s film is Eine Andere Liga, about a Turkish-German woman obsessed with soccer, diagnosed with breast cancer, and struggling to figure out life in general. Sounds…intense. Saturday night, when I won’t be able to attend, there will be some USA-centric stuff when they show The Game of Their Lives so you should go to that. Tickets here!
Something I’ve failed to mention: Kicking and Screening works not just with Play31, but also with COPA NYC. I spoke with their founder, Chris Noble, who was a nice guy. It sounds like the tournament is going to be really awesome. It’s not until July 24-25 (after the World Cup, of course) and then July 31 and August 1 (that won’t be hot…), but keep it in mind if you’re in the area.