2 Feature Films That Focus In On Individual Soccer Players

In this week's NYC Footy video, I decided to focus on just one player’s movements during a game - the talented, and poetic Dexter. I actually followed him through the whole game in order to make the video.

Afterwards, it got me thinking of a couple of noted films that take the same approach.

The first film that comes to mind is Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. Part documentary film and part art installation, the film focuses on Zidane through a full match for Real Madrid v Villareal in 2005.

The film used 17 cameras to track Zidane through the game in which he would ultimately get sent off. Funny that.

To add to the esoteric nature of the film was a soundtrack by the Scottish band Mogwai.

Another more obscure film in the same vain was the 1971 German film, Football As Never Before (Wie Noch Nie)

The film used eight 16mm cameras to track the legendary George Best during a game for Manchester United v Coventary. As the Guardian writes:

For 45 minutes each way and at half-time, the cameras stay focused only on Best, who sports shoulder-length hair and a beard. There is a hypnotic sequence of him inside the bowels of Old Trafford.

The film was only recently resurrected with a new score by Irish composer Matthew Nolan.

Even though Football As Never Before was a pioneering piece of cinematic art by an experimental German film-maker, back in 1971 it had limited distribution options. I think if it had been made today it would have received similar exposure to the Zidane movie. It is a source of some annoyance that in all the press attention the Zidane film got, nobody seemed to acknowledged that there was a precursor in Best.

Here is a clip from the original film.

These films are for anoraks mainly. They both capture the player mostly walking around the field without the ball while observing and reading the game as it flows around them. The players are waiting and looking for opportunities. Only in very rare moments do the players come to life. As one online reviewer states -

The small segments of real action (especially Best's goal) are like Jekyll-and-Hyde transformations -- you can almost see the electricity going off in Best's head as the ball nears him.

Personally, as a film maker and football nut, I love what is attempted in both these films. But the question is, which current player do you think should get the same treatment? Messi? Ronaldo? Zlatan?

Hope you enjoyed this week’s video.