Celebrity documentaries and series have been streaming during the pandemic, flooding our devices and probably our psyches too. The problem is that, there are only so many best-in-the-world sport celebrities. After you get through the stories of what made Ronaldo or Messi great, you fall to the coulda-wouldas, the guys who “coulda been a contender” — if only, if only.
In France, Footeuses is what female footballers call themselves, the feminine form of Footballeur. Until recently, to be a female footballer was largely an oxymoron: to be female and a football player was not accepted. This changed with the Womens World Cup 2019 in France and the hope that the hosting country’s women would repeat the French mens’ success at WC 2018.
Nefta Football Club stands out as being the second*** soccer movie to win an Oscar nomination (that I know of). Nominated in the 2020 Best Live Action Short Film category, Writer-Director Yves Piat has created a visually stunning and engaging short that leads to a whimsical but virtual punch line.
Comme des Garçons is the first feature film from Writer-Director Julien Hallard, and it is quite an achievement. Also known as Let the Girls Play, this soccer movie is cute, smart, and well worth watching. While it takes a number of liberties with the true story of the renaissance of women’s football in France, it does so to create a feel-good film with carefully crafted and entertaining contours.
Post-football, Eric Cantona found a new passion and challenge: cinema. At 30 years old, he unexpectedly retired from football in 1997. Among 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.
The football stories of underdeveloped countries often reflect their nation’s politics. Elections need to be carefully planned around major sports events. Even in developed nations, politicians use sports to bolster approval, because everyone loves a winner.
After the USMNT debacle of failing to qualify for WC 2018, Americans are arguing how to create the best players in the world. Polemists should watch Ballon sur Bitume. Directors Jesse Adang and Syrine Boulanouar show how, in France, some of the most skilled players are rising from small playing fields in the hood.
Les Bleus: Another History of France maps the French football team performance with the nation’s social struggles from 1996-2016. But does the film convey an implicit bias? It is unique in that it does not whitewash the team’s history, and it leaves much to think about.
Add La Dream Team to the list of really good soccer movies that have sprung forth for our viewing pleasure in the past few years. Réalisateur Thomas Sorriaux accomplishes what American directors seldom do: work comedy into a family film that appeals to both kids and adults.
Thank Jean-Louis Pérez for making this documentary. La Planète FIFA is an easy way to trace 40 years of corruption in 94 minutes. Perez specializes in documentaries that center on money and economics as the root of evil, and FIFA gives him plenty of fertile soil to till.
This Zinedine Zidane documentary is not really a soccer movie but is actually a performance piece more suited for an art-house cinema or museum.
Artists and filmmakers Philippe Parreno (French-Algerian) and Douglas Gordon (Scottish) sought to create a cinematic portrait of a working man who was also the best soccer player in the world. They realized that the screen is about the same aspect ratio as a football field, and the length of a feature film is about the same as a match.
Surprise, surprise. The FIFA Movie — otherwise known as F2014, Film 2014, A Men’s Dream, and finally, United Passions — is not bad. Yes, the movie is a conceit, and yes, FIFA shamelessly portrays English football bureaucrats as racist, sexist, and classist “English Bastards”.
To make sure we get those messages, they are repeated a few times. But can you watch it and withhold your anger towards FIFA’s epidemic corruption?
Les Arbitres (The Referees) is a French documentary that follows several referees during Euro 2008. Much like the French movie about Zidane, there is no voice over or commentary to the footage as you watch and listen to the communication headsets of top referees while they work the games.
Some of the movies I’ve reviewed were difficult to get hold of. Joyeux Noël was one such movie. I stayed in a hotel in Avila Beach where they had this DVD in their library! It’s a fairly well done movie, but like The Boys in Company C, it is really an anti-war movie, not a soccer movie at all.
A Major Inconvenience follows virginal young Frenchman Laurent, who puts all his energy into soccer. He has a chance to join the pros and thereby elevate his family from their welfare-level existence. But his focus is waylaid by an affair with the mother of the opponent who broke his nose.