For nearly a decade now, two New Yorkers — MLSSoccer.com's Greg Lalas, and film industry veteran and financial industry professional Rachel Markus — have curated a marriage of soccer and film called the Kicking + Screening Soccer Film Festival. This year, it returns, as usual, to New York, but fresh for 2017, this go-'round is also bicoastal.
Through its nine-year history, K+S has added growing list of international cities to its itinerary, including events in Abu Dhabi, Copenhagen, Liverpool, and Portland. This year, they'll offer a four-night run starting June 6 in New York at Scandinavia House (58 Park Ave.), and then an August sojourn (with exact dates, locations, and films still to be finalized) in Los Angeles.
Though the festival is never quite the same from year to year, the pun in the title hints at its common thread: movies that are about and celebrate the beautiful game. This year’s New York festival, under the banner of “no boundaries,” will feature four movies covering soccer in four different parts of the globe.
“We’re still working on bringing the festival to people year after year because the films we find are unique,” said Markus. “It’s never boring; the conversations the movies generate are different from festival to festival, but we have people who come to every night of the festival, to be part of this community and to have these conversations.”
The opening night movie, Inside a Volcano: The Rise of Icelandic Football, documents the Iceland men’s national team that rose from obscurity to a World Cup-class FIFA ranking and a distinguished performance at the 2016 Euros.
Filmmaker Sævar Gudmundsson approached team officials in 2014, as they were preparing for Euro qualifying, with the idea of making a movie chronicling their run. Gudmundsson reports they were initially resistant to the idea, fearing that cameras would interfere with the process of preparing for qualification.
But the coaches consulted the players about the project. Gudmundsson noted that he and the crew got to follow the team to a match to observe and watch, without cameras, before the team fully got on board the project. (It helped, in part, that goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson is a working filmmaker who has worked with Gudmundsson in the past.)
“I wanted to show who they were and what’s their background ... why are they so good as a team and why the national team is succeeding now for the first time,” he said of the film’s aims. “After being around them we gradually and surprisingly started to see how much their parents, and especially their fathers, have a lot to do with their success.”
Meanwhile the closing-night movie, Celtic Soul, is a documentary that is more comic road-trip movie. Irish soccer journalist Eoin O’Callaghan teams with Canadian actor and comedian Jay Baruchel, best known to American audiences as part of the ensemble featured in 2008’s Tropic Thunder (or, if you’re a kid, the voice of Hiccup in the How to Train Your Dragon series).
They band together for a journey taking them from Montreal to Ireland to Glasgow. The final stop is Celtic Park, home of perennial Scottish Premier League powerhouses Celtic, described in the film’s promo as “one of the wildest and most hallowed grounds in world football.”
The other two feature films in the festival extend the “no boundaries” themes in quite different directions. The 90-Minute War imagines the conflict between Israel and Palestine being decided by a literal loser-leaves-town soccer match.
Meanwhile Les Bleus: Another History of France, 1996-2016 follows the triumph and heartbreak of the French men’s national team through its 1998 World Cup victory, its heartbreaking shootout loss in the 2006 World Cup finals, and its journey back to being one of the favorites for the upcoming 2018 World Cup.
Markus, who relies on a combination of submissions and her own research and curation to build each festival lineup, is excited about this edition of the festival.
Marcus notes that this year’s festival also features what she characterizes as “a brilliant short film from Argentina, in which a young man regales a beautiful woman with an historical World Cup tale because ‘normal things are never remembered.’” To her, this serves as an apt expression of what makes the festival work.
“Kicking + Screening has never been ‘normal,’” she notes. “And that’s what we love most about sport and film — the extraordinary moments are never forgotten, just like our most compelling moments in life.”
Tickets and additional info on the film are available at the Kicking + Screening website.