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Movies for World Cup 2014

Writer: Casey Lee


What? What do you mean there's no kung fu allowed at the World Cup?

As we celebrate the kickoff of the World Cup, moviegoers will owe their sleepless nights not to quietly catch the latest releases from their cinema seats, but for loudly cheering and jeering for their favourite football team in the most anticipated international tournament from their couches.

Even if for some reason you are not tuning in to watch every match of the 2014 World Cup, it doesn't mean that you can't stay up all night watching our picks of movies to get you in the World Cup mood.

Aside from bringing our most memorable football movies around the world (Hollywood is a little lacking in this area for once), we will also be suggesting movies related to the unifying power of the World Cup.

Here's our list of movies that will surely get you in the World Cup fever!

The Cup (1999)

Directed by Bhutanese lama and film director Khyentse Norbu, "The Cup" is about two young refugee monks who want to secure a television, so that they could watch the 1998 World Cup final in their secluded monastery in India. Aside from the heartwarming story of how football manages to bring the world as one once every four years, "The Cup" also made cinematic achievements by being an official entry for Bhutan to the Oscars and was shot entirely in a Tibetan village, making this a worthy entry to find for this World Cup season.

Shaolin Soccer (2001)

While the rest of the movies on this list are far more grounded movies with reality than Stephen Chow's "Shaolin Soccer", we don't want to raise the linesman's flag on this one as far out as it is off the line of the spectacular spectrum that only Stephen Chow can take this to. Revolving around a wayward Shaolin disciple who wants to spread the benefits of Shaolin kung fu to everyone by demonstrating its application in the most beloved game, this hilariously overblown and exaggerated blend of kung fu and football makes for the perfect entertainment in between the half-time breaks, while you can wallow in the fact that you can never assemble such an unbeatable team in your fantasy league.

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

All Jesminder 'Jess' Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) wants to do is play football much to the dismay of her conservative Punjabi parents who hopes that one day she will be the perfect bride who knows how to make a round Chapati. When Jess' skills with the ball makes her noticed to join a women's team with fellow teammate Jules Paxton (Keira Knightley), they both play to be the top team while navigating through the ups and downs of becoming a woman. If anyone doesn't think that football can't click with a chick flick then they haven't seen this little comedy from Gurinder Chadha. "Bend It Like Beckham" is also a cheeky commentary about immigration, traditions, love and sexual identity, which makes this worth watching more than just for the underlying football theme or one of the early roles of Keira Knightley.

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006)

"Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait" is a documentary literally focused on French born Algerian midfielder Zinedine Zidane during a match between Real Madrid and Villarreal FC in 2005. Accompanied by atmospheric punk rock tunes, audiences spent the entirety of the documentary watching shots from 17 synchronized cameras that are trained on the player for the entire match.

While this highly reflexive documentary that runs for 91 minutes of the match can be a little hard to sit through even for those who can stay up through full time of a normal match, this experimental documentary by Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno makes it to the list for being one that can be appreciated by movie buffs for its technical finesse and a learning experience for admirers who want to spy a few moves from the notorious French player, who would later make history for being sent off in the most dramatic fashion for his last World Cup final in 2006.

Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos (2006)

It may be odd to include a football (or soccer) movie from the United States where it haven't had a fanatical following as in other parts of the world, but this documentary by Paul Crowder and John Dower tells the true story of how football once had its day in the sun as a major sport during the 70s. The New York Cosmos was a football team formed by a Warner Bros. executive, who went to sign up the biggest stars of the football world to form the most prolific football team in American history.

Able to coax even the likes of Pele to come out of retirement with obscene amounts of dollars, "Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos" is truly a time in the football history of America that happened just as the title suggested, as it traces what greed and corruption can do to eventually dissolve a team who lived more like rock stars than players. Call this "The Wolf of Wall Street" of football movies, this is still a worthwhile lesson for football fans to sit through on how money can ruin the beautiful game.

La Gran Final (2006)

No match is ever more watched during the World Cup than the World Cup final, and in that moment there are only supporters for two teams in the world. This delightful and well-traveled omnibus by Gerardo Olivares expands on the idea from "The Cup" and tells the story of three different strangers who would go through great lengths to bring back a live telecast of the 2002 World Cup final between Germany and Brazil to their far flung communities. Though "La Gran Final" has more men and women dressed in exotic jerseys (or none thereof) than we are accustomed to seeing on a football field, but they do share the same passion that brings us as one through the World Cup, and for that it fully deserves to be on this list to enjoy the World Cup.

Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal (2007)

While "Bend It Like Beckham" is about challenging traditional values, it does not mean that the best of those values can't get along with football. Vivek Agnihotri's "Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal", starring John Abraham as a talented football player who immigrated to England and ends up with a smalltime team with Arshad Wasi and Bipasha Basu, successfully blends our love for the tropes of dance and drama with football, making this one of the first movies that comes to mind when we think Bollywood and football movies. Now's the right time to make that sequel, Mr. Agnihotri.

Maradona by Kusturica (2008)

Few in the football world would not know the name Diego Maradona, especially for his goal with the 'Hand of God' in the 1986 World Cup. Few would also not know of what became of his football career that went spiraling down afterwards.

In this documentary by Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica, who makes his presence constantly felt, we are given a very personal glimpse on Maradona in his native Argentina where he is a revolutionaire, a failed father and almost worshipped as a god. A must watch for diehard Argentina fans if they haven't, this is still a documentary worth going through for anyone who claims to know their Word Cup history.

For a De Campo (2008)

As football fans from around the world gather to one of the most colorful and brightest capitals of the football world for the 2014 World Cup, "Fora De Campo" highlights the darker side of it where being a professional player in the big leagues could be the biggest break in one's life.

Director Adirley Queiros documents the lives of players in the second division of the Brazilian league where there are more than 500 clubs competing for the chance to stand among the higher paying greats. Winning is not just for the fame and fortune but it is the bread and butter for these players from the mean streets, so that they can regarded as one of the top players to be privileged to step on the ever greener fields of the game and life.

The Last Yugoslavian Football Team (2010)

Sometimes the best football teams in the world implode from within when money, drugs, alcohol and ambition get in the heads of the best players and ruin the entire time. But sometimes the dreams, aspirations and talents of these players are destroyed by forces that are outside the larger game of life. "The Last Yugoslavian Football Team" by director Vuk Janic tells one such story as he interviews players from the last Yugoslavia football team that won the under-21 world championship in 1987.

Their stories combined tells a tragic picture of regret, hatred, anger and sadness as a powerful team is tore down by the ever more powerful forces of politics, genocide and national fragmentation that was the last Yugoslavian football team, but doesn't end without finding little reconciliation on the football field.


Cinema Online, 12 June 2014

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