NEW YORK - Opening up the third annual Kicking and Screening film festival, Greg Lalas spoke briefly about his labor of love and when he talks about it you clearly see his passion and dedication.
It is a love of soccer, love of film, and especially a love of this strange intersection where sport and art collide and the realization that maybe they aren’t so different after all.
The lights dimmed and a visual manifestation of the festival’s spirit appeared on screen; a man stood in the center of a sun lit field juggling a soccer ball in slow motion. Behind him rose the Empire State Building, not imposing, not gloating, simply reminding us of its constant presence and, by extension, our presence within the city of New York.
Video appetizers were served—setting the scene for the smorgasbord of international film ahead—starting with the Norwegian Opprykk, a sparsely comedic look at the nostalgia with which we often view the past. An old man, unable to cope with the changing times, intertwines his own youth with that of a floundering player on a lackluster bottom division team. He is forced to face a harsh reality when the club is disbanded, leaving him lonely and lost. At this point he finds another sport to latch onto, and all is well again.
What does it mean to be a fan? A fanatic?
Next up was Sivan, an Israeli short with a viewpoint all its own. A young woman watches her team Hapoel Tel Aviv—the team that she loves, that she lives and breathes for, that she (and the entire stadium, according to their own fight songs) would die for. This film takes us through an entire game without once showing the field, or anything but Sivan and her section for that matter. Like moving through a condensed life, we watch her highs (Goal!) and her lows (a goal going the other way). And we know how she feels.
The main course Argentina Fútbol Club (AFC)—a sweeping opus dedicated to the “eternal [rivalry]” between Argentina’s two most storied clubs, River Plate and Boca Juniors—wove an intricate tale, detailing every aspect of Argentine soccer.
Through nine chapters, the film discusses everything from the way that Argentineans choose their club to the way that a fan would wish to be buried. Boca even has a special section of a cemetery dedicated to members of the club; one former player said: “It’s so beautiful, it makes you want to stay forever.”
The film discusses political and social aspects of football and the club system, and even delves into an Argentine moral code known as aguante. This is the darker side of the sport; it is a code that legitimizes violence in the name of the club.
It brings us back to the question: fan or fanatic? In Argentina—and many other parts of the world—the lines between sport and life seem to blur.
We scuffled out of the theater and into the anteroom, where the writer and producer of AFC, Gavin Sullivan and writer (and lifelong Manchester United fan) Rick Ball fielded questions and discussed what fandom truly is, as well as where that line is… and where it should be.
Are you a fan? Or are you a fanatic?
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