The idea for Headless Chickens (Pollos Sin Cabeza) sprang from the heads of Pokeepsie Films. Although not football fans themselves, they figured when footballers and their agents are flush with money, there are many opportunities for sh*t to happen. They went to Writer and showrunner Jorge Valdano Sáenz to develop the concept.
Soccer Shrines is a series that covers fans and their football stadiums across 3 continents, selecting the better-known clubs in a country. Produced for the Canadian market in 2010, it’s a sort of travelogue. I say “sort of”, because you don’t really see much of the country that is visited, so you aren’t inspired to travel there.
I had resolved not to review another hooligan movie, but Cass is not one of those hit-and-tell stories that glorifies football supporter violence. Instead, this gripping film shows how a young Black man rises above the hatred that surrounds him. In the case of Cass Pennant, hatred comes from many sources: his skin color, which he tries to scrub off as a child, the competition with supporter firms, and a meaningless life of toil, from which violence is an emotional escape.
‘A Winning Team’ (2023) is all about love
The Hallmark Channel produces as many as 100 films in a year, and A Winning Team may be its only soccer movie, ever. Like most Hallmark films, it’s also about how love of family plus a little romance pull the lead lady footballer back to a real life.
Khartoum Offside is Writer-Director Marwa Zein’s first feature length film and has won a number of awards. I just don’t know enough about the film industry to understand why.
In the documentary Pojkdrömmen, Writer-Director Emil Moberg Lundén tells his own story of his last-ditch all-out attempt to become a pro footballer at age 30. It’s an entertaining film under an hour, as Emil is the anti-Zlatan, an attractive, talented man who comes to question his self-centered goal in the context of third world problems.
Two of the short films being showcased at the 2023 edition of Denmark’s Shoot! Festival are worth a quick watch or mention.
Pretty Tough sat in my Amazon watchlist for a long time, because it looked like one of those low quality movies that was either exploitative of teen girls or from the Christian network. So I was surprised when I found Pretty Tough to be pretty good, and neither exploitative nor religious.
‘Red Card’ (2017) – old time Emirati humor
Late one night on Netflix, I found this Emirati football comedy from the UAE (United Arab Emirates). When I started watching Red Card (Kart Ahmar), I was quickly confused. I hadn’t had any exposure to Arab humor, and given how conservatively Islam is portrayed in the media, I had assumed that Arabs don’t laugh much. I used to think that about Germans too, but I was wrong.
It’s not often that I rate a Netflix Original so low, as usually Netflix has a minimum level of quality. But somehow, the docuseries Senzo: Murder of a Soccer Star got past the QA department. Yeah, it’s a howler.
High school sports often serve as the film setting for a great divide: between rich and poor, Black and White, or urban versus rural. Maybe the greatest high school sports drama is Denzel Washington’s Remember the Titans (2000), where in the racist South, a Black coach and Black and White co-captains unite a newly integrated pointy football team.
This film about Mexico’s Hugo Sanchéz is a little bit different from the deluge of content the streaming era has brought. Some of the worst shows have essentially been reality showcases for celebrity footballers, such as Neymar and Paul Pogba. It felt like these players were isolated narcissists and I ended up disrespecting them as players as well.
Presented by Robbie Lyle, Football Fans: Under Their Skin gathers together leaders of supporters groups and prominent fans who are all men of color. Some share their childhood experiences in the stands as victims of racism. It is painful to see how those experiences affected them and their parents. And decades on, not only does racism continue in the stadium, but it now thrives online.
Bit by bit, HBO Max has gotten onto the fútbol bandwagon, and so far, they have put some very entertaining productions online. If you are a student of refereeing, narco-fútbol, or sports corruption, you will especially enjoy the documentary Dangerous Play (original title is Jugada Peligrosa) by Director Matías Gueilburt.
It isn’t right that how one dies carries more weight than how one lived. Almost 30 years after he was murdered for committing an own goal at WC 1994, the life of Andrès Escobar is portrayed in the Netflix fiction Goles en contra (English title is The Final Score).