Sunderland ’Til I Die (2018) takes your eye off the truth

Sunderland 'Til I Die (2018-2019)

Football clubs used to publish just a single documentary film about themselves every so often, but now they’ve migrated to massive streaming series. Usually I avoid football club and player movies because I know they are going to amount to a very long marketing video. I made an exception for the Netflix series Sunderland ’Til I Die. And here’s why.

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Why I loved ‘The English Game’ (2020)

The English Game (2020)

A period drama about football is unique. A well-crafted tale in this time of pestilence is a joy and a comfort. The English Game, how football became the people’s game, is elegant soap opera and luscious escapism to a simpler time. Three nights in a row, to close out my shelter-in-place day, I self-administered dollops of this Netflix TV series and then slept deeply, sans souci.

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‘StreetKids United 2: The Girls of Rio’ (2015) raises awareness

Street Kids United 2: The Girls of Rio (2015)

Last month, I reviewed Zebras, a low-budget documentary which followed the Argentine boys team that competed in the 2014 Street Kids World Cup in Brazil. StreetKids United 2: The Girls of Rio is a slicker production by Director Maria Clara, following a team of girls from Rio who compete in the same tournament, 

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Derby Days Berlin (2019) will make you a fan

Copa90 Stories logo

You might expect that as a reviewer of soccer movies, I would be well aware of COPA90, a company that claims to be “The world’s largest independent football media business”, delivering stories on “football like you’ve never seen it before”. I knew the name, but I hadn’t looked at their content until I watched Derby Days Berlin, an episode of their Copa90 Stories youtube channel. 

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Only watch ‘Maradona’ (2019) for the football

Diego Maradona (2019)

Before there was Messi, there was Maradona. Asif Kapadia’s Diego Maradona is an extraordinary football film in its collection of Maradona’s greatest hits: his passes and shots as well as the violence perpetrated upon him by opponents. In extensive footage, time and time again Maradona throws off tackles like a dog shaking off raindrops. There is not a single moment where he looks ordinary on the field. Even his juggling during practice is something I had never seen before.

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‘Kaiser’ (2018) perpetuates a lad’s fantasy

Kaiser: The Greatest Footballer Never to Play Football (2018)

Imagine you’re at WC 2014 in Brazil, and you hear this great story about a legendary local lothario. Known as Kaiser, Carlos Henrique Raposo pretended to be a pro footballer and lived the life for over 20 years. He slept with thousands of women, conning the ladies, owners, and coaches, while cleverly avoiding ever getting on the pitch. 

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‘Seaside Town’ (2018) makes a pleasant hour

As a low budget mockumentary, Seaside Town is a cute demo of what you can do with £12,000 and 155 enthusiastic participants from the local community. Director Warren Dudley and the producers wanted to put their hometown on the map. The result, Seaside Town, was originally a web series of six 12-minute episodes, but you can watch it on Amazon Prime as a 57-minute movie with the title My English American Adventure

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‘Final Score’ (2018) is a rocking good time

Final Score (2018)

When West Ham United decided to demolish its 112 year old Upton Park stadium, maybe you wanted to protest or pronounce good riddance. Instead, Producer Marc Goldberg conceptualized “Diehard in a football stadium”. The Brothers Lynch quickly put together a script, and in Feb-2016, Scott Mann signed up to direct a movie that had to be shot within 6 months, before the stadium went to pieces.

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‘Make Us Dream’ (2018) – the price of giving your all

Make Us Dream (2018)

You don’t need to be a Liverpool fan to love Make Us Dream. But by the end of it, you may want to become an LFC supporter. Because Writer-Director Sam Blair brilliantly crafts the tale of Steven Gerrard so that his pain, his mission, and his love for club and city bind to your heart. When you watch this film, you believe the club is the man, and the man is the club. 

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‘Bobby Robson’ (2018) – his resilience defied vilification

Bobby Robson: More than a Manager (2018)

Bobby Robson: More than a Manager is an extraordinary compilation of Robson archive footage interspersed with A-list interviews of coaches and players he influenced. Before this film, I didn’t know who Robson was, but in his prime, he is so alive and captivating that I could have watched him for another 2 hours. It is only towards the end, when he finally succumbs to cancer, that I realized he is literally communicating from the grave. 

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Where did ‘United We Fall’ (2014) go wrong?

United We Fall (2014)

As viewers, we sort of expect that a mockumentary will play out, as Bob Balaban has described, like “spending time with a bunch of really funny and totally harmless mental patients.” Christopher Guest set a very high bar for mockumentary, and I have no doubt that, when Writer-Director Gary Sinyor outlined his plan for United We Fall, he hoped his football comedy would reach similar heights of hilarity.

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