Withthe "Kaiser" Franz Beckenbauer in town yesterday and the World Cup tobe held in Germany next year, football fever is breaking out in the filmindustry. From Europe to South America, new football-themed films are beingplanned.
InBrazil, Walter Salles (in Germany this week for the Berlinale Talent Campus) isbusy polishing the script for Linha Do Pase, his drama about four youngbrothers from an impoverished background who try to break the social apartheidin Brazil through professional football. He will co-direct with Daniela Thomas.Shooting is due to begin in the early autumn.
Inthe UK, Kenny Glenaan (whose Yasmin won the European Templeton FilmAward in Berlin this week) is hatching Ducane's Boys, a drama about theunderbelly of professional soccer which shows football agents as modern-dayslave traders. Julie Baines and NikPowell are executive-producing.
We'llsoon be seeing the hitherto cherubic Elijah Wood as a Harvard student turnedWest Ham football thug in Lexi Alexander's Hooligans.
Meanwhile,Danny Cannon's Goal! is currently shooting and Luc Roeg and CharlesFinch's Artist Independent Network are hatching a six-part TV spin-off fromfilm comedy Mike Bassett: England Manager. Ricky Tomlinson is again toplay the hapless national team manager.
TheBerlinale programme is also heaving with titles touching on football. TheTalent Campus is showcasing an international selection of 45 shorts titled:Shoot Goals! Shoot Movies!, combining documentary, animation and short fiction.
Nextyear, an omnibus film about football with 15-minute segments from directorsKenneth Branagh, Emir Kustarica and Werner Herzog, amongst others, will receiveits world premiere at the Berlinale.
SherryHormann's Balls (screening in German Films) is about a player who startshis own club. Hannes Stoehr's competition entry One Day In Europerevolves around the Champion's League Final. Ken Loach's episode in Ticketsfeatures three rowdy Celtic fans, en route to Rome to watch a football match.Outside the Berlinale, one of the films tipped to score at the Germanbox-office this year is kids' title, The Wild Soccer Bunch 2 (to bereleased later this week.)
Thenthere's the Finnish comedy FC Venus, about a bunch of housewives fed upwith their football-crazy husbands who form their own team; in an unusual move,Hamburg's Wueste Filmproduktion will remake it in German before it is even seenin theatres at home in Finland.
Quizzedas to why there is this new marriage between movies and soccer. Talent ManagerThomas Stuck suggested: "both convey a certain atmosphere that creates aspecial feeling in viewers." He might have added that a football matchlasts 90 minutes, just like a good film.
Inall the ongoing football/film euphoria, a few of notes of caution need to bestruck. Football movies don't always travel well outside their domesticterritories. (Witness the dismal box-office performance in the UK of TheMiracle Of Berne, about Germany's unlikely triumph in the 1954 World Cup.This, it turned out, wasn't a subject with any resonance for Britishspectators.)
Moreover,the one territory in which the football bug hasn't properly bitten yet is theUS; but Bend It Like Beckham's impressive $32m gross there holds outsome tantalising hope for film's 'team football' in 2006.