Over the last years, football film festivals have spanned across Europe as an alternative to conventional ways of addressing human rights abuse, discrimination and inclusion in football. In 2014, the Fare Football People action weeks saw many take place across the region and discuss topics such as Roma inclusion, human trafficking and homophobia.
“A documentary film can be a very powerful way to explore and expose what’s going on in a country – the good and the bad – by showing people important issues they might not otherwise get to see. It can add also to international pressure for change.” said the former France international Eric Cantona about his documentary ‘Looking for Rio’.
Football People film festivals
From fans to schools, NGOs and amateur clubs, several groups held film screenings during the Action Weeks encouraging discussions among, supporters, children and the general public.
FriGo Association (Hungary), qSPORT Zagreb (Croatia), Антикино (Belarus), Football Beyond Borders (England), Federación de Accionistas y Socios del Fútbol Español and Brigadas Amarillas (Spain), were some of those.
Others used the opportunity to produce their own documentaries. But among the countless screening events, two film festivals helped the Action Weeks message of inclusion reach hundreds.
“The idea of organising a film festival was something we had been discussing for quite some time. We often do small gatherings with screenings but we wanted to do something bigger.
“However, we knew we did not have conditions to do it on our one, specially because we did not have the funding necessary and we knew it would be difficult to find a place to host it and publicise it properly.” said Nuno Silva, representative of SOS Racismo and organiser of the MICAR Film Festival.
Addressing racism and homophobia in Portugal and Bulgaria
The MICAR film festival, organised by SOS Racismo, was the first-ever anti-racism fest to use football to discuss immigration, racism and inclusion in Portugal. It was also one of the 13 Event Grants awarded by Fare in 2014.
It celebrated over 20 years of the organisation’s activity in Portugal, and in football inclusive.
“We have had and still have several issues going on around discrimination in football and, in the past, we took action in many.
“The first has to do with the presence of the far-right on football terraces, which was far worst in the 90’s. But, it stills exists and last year before a FC Porto v Sporting match we had a serious incident.
“On the other hand, we often see players such as Quaresma [Roma player] being the target of discriminatory abuse.” Nuno added.
Similarly to MICAR, in Bulgaria, the LGBT rights group Bilitis Resource Centre Foundation also organised a three-day film festival to raise awareness of discrimination in football.
The Sports for Tolerance film festival focused on the topics of homophobia, gender identity and sexism and how sports can promote tolerance.
Films including Football under cover, Foot for Love and Thokozani Football Club, the latter produced by the Fare member Les Dégommeuses, workshops on self-defence, racism and sexism featured in the festival.
Fare Programmes Co-ordinator Claudia Krobitzch said: “It was great to have these two film festivals during the Football People weeks.
“These events are a great way to discuss important subjects. Films and documentaries help people relate to the stories and understand the topics approached in a different way”.
Both festivals also included a series of debates with experts, campaigners and film producers.
Following a growing number of film festivals in 2014, next month, the Spanish top tier club Athletic Bilbao and its Foundation will run the third edition of the ‘Thinking Football’ festival.
Ten documentaries from countries including Brazil, Germany, France, the United States, Poland and the United Kingdom will address the social and political role of football players and clubs; football as a tool for inclusion and the how the game is used in politics.
The Audience Award, as in previous years, will see the winner donate the prize money to a social project that works with sport.
In Lyon, France, the second edition of the festival Cinema, Sport et Litterature, which was held over the weekend, presented Cantona’s latest documentary, Football and immigration – a 100 years of common history, furthering a nation-wide debate on immigration, days after the attack against Charlie Hebdo, in Paris.
Questioned by Euronews on the role of sport to bring people together, the Manchester United legend answered: “I think that sport in general, and football in particular, can do it. Because in sport, if you’re better than someone else, you play. This is what is beautiful in sport.”
“What is regrettable, as Tigana says at the end of the documentary, is that as soon as you leave the football field – among managers, or within national football associations, the situation becomes like it is in the rest of society: if the colour of your skin “doesn’t correspond”, you might not have the place that you deserve.”
Similarly, to Lyon and Bilbao, the German and Brazilian touring football festivals, 11mm and Cinefoot, have already announced their events for 2015; while Kick + Screening Soccer Film Festival and the Barcelona Sports Film are currently accepting submissions for the hosting cities and featured documentaries.