WORLD CUP : Ringside View

Soccer film festival in Berlin

BERLIN: A film festival currently running in Berlin shows what the so-called beautiful game has to do with Brazilian film history. From historic clips to extraordinary film essays, there’s something in it for everyone.

“The idea is to illuminate aspects of Brazilian culture through the history of soccer — and also to show the fan world, their passionate relationship to the sport, their pain and joy,” explained Camilla Ribas, curator of the Berlin film festival that runs till July 3.

Ribas and the other coordinators have been overwhelmed by the fact that large number of soccer fans are taking a break between World Cup games to visit the cinema.

Soccer found a place in front of the camera as early as 1908 in the documentary of a game between Brazil and Argentina. Since then, the game has been a recurring theme in Brazilian films.

One film that won’t be shown during the festival is “O Campeao do Futebol” (The Soccer Champion), an early film that portrays German-Brazilian soccer pioneer Arthur Friedenreich.

“Unfortunately, many historical films have been partially damaged or long forgotten in various archives. Preserving old films in Brazil can be problematic,” said Ribas.

In choosing which films and documentaries to present in Germany, Ribas and her colleagues viewed nearly a hundred. “Todo Mundo” (Everyone) is one that made the final cut.

“This film is a visual treat in which director Thomaz Farkas examines the emotions of the

soccer fans from a clinical perspective,” commented Ribas.

“Subterraneos do Futebol” (“The Underside of Soccer”) is among the festival’s highlights. Made in 1968, the documentary analyses soccer’s function as a pacifier for the

masses. Gilberto Gil, now Brazil’s culture minister, composed the soundtrack of this film.

“Ginga,” a documentary included in the festival, was released as a DVD on the German market shortly before the World Cup began on June 9. It was directed by Marcelo Machado, Tocha Alves and Hank Levine, a German living in Sao Paulo. Fernando Meirelles, director of “City of God” and “The Constant Gardener,” produced the documentary.

“Ginga” takes a graffiti map of Brazil as a motif and uses it to tell the life stories of several anonymous soccer players from various regions, who dream of becoming big stars like Ronaldo or Ronaldinho. The documentary doesn’t, however, touch on poverty or violence in the poorer neighbourhoods where many of the soccer players live.

“Violence is huge, but it’s the exception. Europe frequently looks at our poverty because it represents a reality that’s different from the European one. The misery is appalling, but it’s not the norm in Brazil. ‘City of God’ talked about the shadowy sides of society, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the reality in the whole country,” said Meirelles.

“We tried to show other little known aspects to the audiences that only know the Ronaldos,” he added.