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).
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).
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.
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.