Directors Marco La Villa and Mauro La Villa say that this film is about fathers and sons and how football unites generations and allows them to relate to each other. The twin brothers worked on this film for 10 years, after their father, a life long Juventini, passed away without ever attending a Juventus game.
To be sure, any Juventus fan should love seeing their team’s very long history portrayed on film. There are a lot of photos, a lot of video. The brothers were very lucky in that they filmed Juventus during the 2011/12 season, so that fans can relive the highlights of a championship year. But it is not so much a film about fathers and sons as it is the simple story of a dynasty.
The Agnellis and their rivals
The Agnelli family has owned the club for many generations, and scion Gianni Agnelli’s enthusiasm paints him equal to their fans. For him, football is a passion, not a business. The directors weave in a story arc where the club is trying to win a 3rd star, for 30 Scudettos, while Gianni is still alive. (A Scudetto is a badge shaped as a shield, which the winner of the Serie A wears the following season.)
The club doesn’t quite achieve that goal, but Juventus makes its big comeback in the second year of Andrea Agnelli’s leadership. Much of the film covers the club rivalries with AC Milan and Inter Milan, where players and coaches are tactics in escalating weaponry. There is some coverage of the aftermath of the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal. At the end of the 2011/12 season, Juventus wins its 30th Scudetto ahead of either of the 2 Milans winning 20 Scudettos.
However, the 3rd star is officially withheld from Juventus by the league because it had revoked Juventus’ titles of 2004/05 and 2005/06 after the Calciopoli scandal. But the film and the fans celebrate the star anyway.
Because the film covers every male member of the family, you get a glimpse of the relations inside the family business. Being a male heir in the Agnelli family is as tragic as being a Kennedy. Andrea’s grandfather Edoardo Agnelli was killed by an airplane propeller at age 43, Andrea’s drug-abusing uncle Edoardo jumped off a bridge at age 46, and Andrea’s brother Giovanni Alberto died of intestinal cancer at age 33. Cousin Lapo Elkann, who was the reason this film got made, has had his issues with drugs. As of today, Andrea’s cousin John Elkann has become the true scion of the family, while Andrea’s disdain for ethics has led Juventus into peaks and its current sinkhole.
In Super League, Andrea Agnelli stated that morality is not part of the business environment. It appears that Andrea Agnelli only sees football as a business, and as seen in Black and White Stripes, to Juventus, winning is all that matters. One of the interesting aspects of this film is to see the small difference between 2016 Andrea Agnelli and 2023 Andrea Agnelli. He loses the unibrow, and his demeanour goes from cold to icy cold. Not the kind of guy I would want to have to trust.
The La Villa Brothers
It was surprising to realize that such an Italian movie was made by twin brothers born in Canada to Italian immigrant parents, but who have largely lived in New York. Normally I am supportive of directors of football films, because it is such a niche market, and in general it seems pretty difficult to get a soccer movie made.
But in researching the La Villa brothers, I discovered that the website for their production company, Eastern Canal Film LLC, is no longer in operation. To make the film, they borrowed from $250k to $1.5M from friends and then declared bankruptcy rather than repay the debts. In addition, it appears from this case update that they kept strange books and took actions to delay the proceedings as much as possible — perhaps a lesson learned from Italian justice (see my review of the Calciopoli documentary Soccergate).
I can’t cheer for Juventus for the same reasons I can’t cheer for ManCity. Both organizations consistently break the rules in order to dominate their opposition and then deny or obstruct all culpability for wrongdoing. Maybe that’s modern soccer. Maybe that’s business. But I just can’t see making heroes out of cheaters. A weakness on my part, I am sure. But certainly this is a film for Juventini to enjoy and maybe for everyone else to avoid on the basis of ethics.
6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6
- Released: 2016-09-08 (Turin)
- Italian title is Bianconeri: Juventus Story (bianconeri translates as black and white)
- 109 mins or 1 hour 47 mins
- I watched this on Paramount+
- In English and Italian with English sub-titles
- Director: Marco La Villa , Mauro La Villa
- Stars: Giovanni “Gianni” Agnelli, aka “The Lawyer”
- Watch the Trailer