IIFF 2009: Football night

September 30, 2009 at 8:55 am (Festivals, IIFF, Movies, Reviews)

Day 4 was the first day in which I actually had work to do. Rushed to a press conference in the morning, with the main competition jury, including Anamaria Marinca, and then went to Cinema Victoria where I spent the next few hours writing. After a(nother) disgusting lunch on the house, and some more writing, I caught the first film of the day late in the afternoon.

Short Sharp Shock, Fatih Akin’s debut in 1998, sets the tone for what will eventually become an amazing career for the German-Turkish director. The film, despite some obvious normal flaws for a directorial debut, has the same angst and power Akin’s later movies will make him famous for, but the story and the characters are much less complex. I couldn’t shake off the feeling this is some sort of exercise for Akin, knowing that he will use the same world, the same themes, for his future, more polished and famous movies, especially Head On. Still, for a debut, this is a great film.

Both evening’s movies at Victoria Theater revolved around the world of football. The first one was a Mexican comedy, starring the greatly talented Gael Garcia Bernal and Carlos Luna, in a film directed by Alfonso Cuaron’s brother, Carlos. Rudo y Cursi is an interesting, albeit conventional sports comedy, about two poor brothers from a Mexican village who get noticed by an agent and end up playing in the Mexican first division. All the musts of such a film are present, including the big match between the rival brothers. What sets this apart are the characters – both of them, simple people caught in a world they aren’t familiar with, a world they don’t really want and for which they’re not ready to sacrifice their lives for. What I really didn’t like was the total lack of soccer action from the film. Even the games are shot only suggesting what’s going on on the pitch – and that destroyed part of the excitement and audience involvement. Still, the debut of Carlos Cuaron is a good film, with good performances. I don’t think this will stand a chance for any awards here at IIFF, but it’s a movie worth seeing.

The last film of the day was another good one – but not great. The Damned United tells the story of Richard Clough, one of the legendary coaches of English soccer, and his extremely short tenure at Leeds United, where he lasted only 44 days before getting fired. Michael Sheen does an outstanding job portraying Clough, but the movie, despite being extremely interesting for soccer fanatics, fails to gain the attention of the “outsiders”, and also twists some important events, becoming mostly a film “inspired by real events”, and not a true biography.

In this report: Short Sharp Shock 7/10, Rudo y Cursi 6/10, The Damned United 7/10

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