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).
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.