Last year I did some movie reviews for Kicking and Screening Film Festival and this year I’m at it again. The festival is this week in New York City and if you show up any day other than Saturday, you can meet me. And you can also watch some incredible movies about this sport we all love.
Today’s preview is Match 64, the movie I’ll be missing on Saturday. Tomorrow I’ll preview some of the short films and then on Wednesday I’ll start the nightly reviews of the feature films. And remember, go to K&S’s website, follow them on Twitter, and like them on Facebook. It’s actually a really fun time and a charity makes some money out of it too. And did I mention you could even meet me?
Directed by Daniel Gordon
120 minutes of soccer hardly does a game justice, especially not if it is witnessed by 2 billion people and is the crowning jewel of a month-long, quadrennial tournament. As the first to be held on the continent in tournament’s 80 year history and couple with today’s digital age, the FIFA World Cup inSouth Africawas bound to be both heavily celebrated highly scrutinized.
Match 64 deals primarily with the major players in behind the World Cup, such as Sepp Blatter and Danny Jordan, FIFA president and head of South Africa’s organizing committee respectively, but also takes time to focus scenes on the players, coaches, and refs in the match and winding down to the stewards, flag bearers, and even the owner of a bike rental shop. Blatter and company express politically clean and meaning-free opinions about how great this is forSouth Africa while the rest of the cast goes through the motions of setting up the field of play so that the spectacle can run its course.
The first half of the film is devoted to pre-match buildup and preparation. The film follows one of the six children designated to walk out with the Dutch flag before the national anthems, is shown at hairdresser getting ready for the seconds when she will be on the field in front of almost a hundred thousand fans despite being nothing more than a child playing a bit part. Her family cheers wildly from their home inSowetowhen she appears on screen. A volunteer steward proud of his involvement talks of improving his life likeSouth Africahas improved itself. The man in charge of the playing surface treats it like a protective father would his child, nervously watching players warm up to make sure nothing goes wrong.
Then the players arrive at the stadium. Listening to Howard Webb, Andres Iniesta, John Heitinga, Carles Puyol, and Bert van Marwijk discuss the game gives an insight into the game that is rarely seen. Puyol smiles and shrugs as he recounts his failed tackle on Robben that could have easily lead to his sending off; Heitinga shrugs and says his own sending off simply was. Van Marwijk doesn’t want to talk aboutSpain’s goal, but Iniesta can’t stop himself from babbling about it.
This film is not about social commentary and only gives brief looks at the problems encountered by those outside the stadiums, with one interviewee saying just before kickoff that they were worried they wouldn’t be able to watch much—or possibly any—of the festivities because the area around the stadium was under a blackout. There is no real discussion ofSouth Africa’s dysfunction—instead it is Shakira dancing on stage, Nelson Mandela riding in a golf cart around the field, and Iker Casilla lifting the World Cup trophy.
I watched this film during the Wimbledonfinal. On one screen Rafa Nadal silently, and ultimately futilely, battled Novak Djokovic while on the other he chatted with Sepp Blatter and a host of Spanish VIPs including Pau Gasol and Placido Domingo. For all the things it leaves out, Match 64 lets everyone in on what goes into making the World Cup final actually happen. There are glitches—Shakira is late and screams at her clueless drive to get a move on—and lonely moments—the Dutch players randomly selected for drug testing after the match stare at the walls while waiting their turn—but scenes of Sowetan children celebrating Spain’s victory and Iker raising the cup win out in the end and make this a film well worth seeing.