Festival of Festivals

A few weeks ago Football Film Festival Australia were given the opportunity to travel out to the 13th edition of the 11mm Fussball Film Festival in Germany, to join 13 other Film Festival directors at the Festival of Festivals. After initially questioning the viability of a weekend jaunt to Berlin from the midst of a seemingly relentless Sydney heatwave, I booked flights and re-watched the Australian films I'd be presenting. 

Touching down in Tegel Airport at 10pm (after a quick stop to catch Eastern host Pegasus in a Hong Kong Premier League match), I arrived at Kino Babylon close to midnight to a raucous welcome from the 11mm team. I'd just missed a successful opening night screening of Goal! with special guests from the defeated 1966 West Germany squad. A welcome nightcap was complemented by discussion around the following themes:

  • disbelief that the Football Film Festival in Australia took place in 4 cities during our inaugural year.
  • disbelief that I flew in from Sydney for the weekend. 
  • excitement to learn of Australia's football culture.

Day 2 consisted of an early morning football match with friends of our partner charity Football United, and mapping out which of the 70+ football films I'd consume over the few days.

In the first slot of the evening I had the pleasure of presenting a couple of Australian films: award winning short The Trophy Thief and our 2015 Audience Award winner November 16. 

The theatre was filled with Australian ex-pats, intrigued Germans, the Australian Consulate and a number of 11mm staff and volunteers who were keen to learn more of Australian football. Unsurprisingly, the films were well received and the audience engaged in some insightful discussion post-film. 

Saturday was the day the Film Festival directors from across the world were able to break bread, figuratively and literally (pictured below, bottom left). Along with me, festival directors from Brazil, China and Japan were especially acknowledged due to the multiple flights and distance travelled to get to Berlin. Further directors introduced themselves from The Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Spain, England, Denmark, Belgium and Italy, and we took the first steps in building an international network of Football Film Festivals. I was also especially excited to chat to Jan Tilman Schaub (pictured below, second from left in the dugout), who wrote the book on football films (pictured below, bottom right). 

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After a proper football experience at Olympiastadion (including a hardworking, but ultimately unsuccessful Mathew Leckie) I got to sit straight through a number of wonderful football films, including Club Frontera (USA/Mexico) and Marcats per Messi (Spain). At midnight I sat alongside 100 or so punters for a free viewing of a silent German football movie from 1927, Die elf Teufel, accompanied by an organist (pictured above, top left). A truly mesmeric experience. Sunday I got to catch German/Iranian short documentary Tehran Derby, Ayaktakimi from Turkey and Sommeren '92 from Denmark.

I had to catch a flight prior to the Shorts session on Monday, which has regularly wrapped each of the previous 12 festivals, and I was advised later that it was another storming success. 

Although I only managed to catch a short number of screenings, the quantity and quality of football films and documentaries from across the world opened my eyes to the possibilities of working within the football film space. The vast majority of filmmakers and festival curators are in it because they love the experience - the events, conversations and screenings are their reward. I felt a real sense of shared experience, pride and camaraderie throughout my short time in Berlin.

An exceptional advertisement for the wonderful worlds of football and film, capable of bridging culture, language, geography and time.

 

Football Film Festival Parramatta

After years in the making and months in planning, we opened our doors to the first ever Football Film Festival guests. And what guests they were. During an Opening Gala, Oohs and Aahs came from AFTA's Subbuteo table, some very good photographs hung in the Good Sport exhibition and patrons mingled with directors, footballers, community workers, actors and friends. 

Festival Director Kieran Tully welcomed guests and thanked sponsors, and Football Federation Australia GM of Marketing and Communication, Rob Squillacioti, spoke of the importance of the A-League's partnership with our Film Festival. President of the South Sudanese Football Association, Abraham Ajok took to the stage to introduce the opening film, Coach Zoran and his African Tigers (2015).  

Abraham Ajok welcomes guests

Abraham Ajok welcomes guests

Ajok made the connection between football in his time in Sudan as a regional representative player before becoming one of Sudan's Lost Boys during the war. In Sydney, SSFA has over 600 players registered.

Before the feature, a wonderful short film, The Other Side (2011) , explored the Palestine-Israel conflict through the eyes of a boy who loves football. Then it was time for Coach Zoran, who had guests roaring with laughter and on the verge of tears. 

Saturday saw a couple of sessions; Old Soccer, New Football looked at 50 years of football in Australia through 3 documentaries, including Western Sydney Wanderers: Champions of Asia (2015), which was especially poignant with Wanderer Shannon Cole in the audience. Shannon joined guests Shaun Mooney (Leopold Method) and Mark Falvo (FFA) in a panel discussion hosted by football journalist Richard Parkin (Guardian Australia).

Shaun Mooney, Mark Falvo, Shannon Cole and Richard Parkin in Old Soccer, New Football

Shaun Mooney, Mark Falvo, Shannon Cole and Richard Parkin in Old Soccer, New Football

The second session was a screening of Offside (2006), Jafar Panahi’s smart comedy illustrating the fight for women’s rights, this cult classic was shot during a live Iran v Bahrain World Cup qualifying campaign.

We wrapped on Sunday with a sold-out World Premiere of Aussie Chuk-gu Dream (2015). The screening was supported by the Korean Soccer Association Australia, Korean Cultural Centre, Korean Film Festival and Red Elephant Projects.

Ahn Jae-Young's film featured two sets of father and sons, Danny and Sunny, who are living their Australian-Korean football dream, and guests were honoured to have film-maker and stars available for a panel discussion; key discussions focussed on the second generation of Korean-Australians overcoming their fathers fears of prejudice and discrimination, and bringing their fathers along into the world of acceptance offered to them through football in Australia. 

David Park (L) hosts a Q&A with the Aussie Chuk-gu team

David Park (L) hosts a Q&A with the Aussie Chuk-gu team

Coordinator Gerard Vasta and guest David Park rocked the theatre with a tifo and traditional Korean chants as the crowd snacked on traditional Korean choco pies, chips, rice punch (Shikhye) and cinnamon punch (Sujeongwa).

Thanks for coming. Deep breath. Now it's Leichhardt's turn.