Looking for… fanatic football fans (2010-2015)

Post-football, Eric Cantona found a new passion and challenge: cinema. 30 years old, he unexpectedly retired from football in 1997. Among other reasons Eric has cited in retrospect: he was tired of playing the game. However, he transitioned to acting as well as beach soccer, popularizing the sport and managing the French beach soccer team for almost 15 years.

Eric Cantona formed a production company with his brothers, somewhat eponymously named Canto Bros Productions. They recruited Ken Loach and Paul Laverty to direct and write a film that showcased Eric, in a loving and funny way, and his impact on his fans. (Looking for Eric is one of the best soccer movies that I have reviewed.) Canto Bros then produced the Looking for documentary series of TV movies, which explore 8 cities around the world that host passionate cross-town derbies and fervent fans.

The episodes were generated by 4 different directors along a common formula. Ardent fans, often members of an Ultras group, are interviewed where they explain how their fandom has been in the family for generations. A history of the city and its football is cobbled from archives and interspersed with new interviews of fans, big name players, journalists, and historians.

Eric arrives a few days or weeks before the derby. The camera team films him strutting around a few iconic areas in the city as well as the empty stadium. He then voices over the history and the narrative. Occasionally he is filmed with fans or in the neighborhoods. Very often, the 2 teams in a derby represent the historical clash of upper and lower economic classes. Each film ends with the end of the derby, usually without even citing the final score.

Apologies for that boring summary, but is this series worth watching? It depends on how much you like Eric Cantona. Swaggering around town with his eagle-like glare, he is a presence. The episodes that show him interacting with locals — usually players, artists or musicians, rarely fans — are the most entertaining. But his English voiceovers are tainted by his heavy French accent and were very difficult for me to understand. English captions or sub-titles should have been provided.

What I appreciate about this series of films is that they are largely about the fans. In some cases, such as in Rio, Eric points out that working class fans are the wellspring of the game. The best players come from the poor, and if the poor are priced out of attending the games, where will the next generation of great players come from? 

I watched the Manchester, Barcelona, Istanbul, Rio, and Buenos Aires episodes. Of these, I found Barcelona and Rio to be the most interesting, mainly because Eric is more visible.

The histories are interesting, and some of the episodes are very picturesque, but Eric Cantona’s Looking For series is difficult to binge watch because the stories are so similar. If you are not familiar with the teams, it is hard to remember who is who, as the films jump back and forth between fans. The last episode was filmed in 2015, in Algiers, where Eric sits alone in the stands because the derby is behind closed doors.

One of the things that struck me while researching these films and Eric Cantona, was how similar he is to Zlatan Ibrahimovic in demeanor, size, playing style, anger mismanagement, and ability to give good sound bytes (watch Becoming Zlatan).

In French, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, English with some English or French sub-titles

7 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 7

Six of the episodes are available on kanopy.com; three are on the web.