This year the Film Africa festival stormed independent cinemas across London, showcasing some of the finest talent in film production, acting and screenplay. To mark the celebrations I headed down to Hackney Picturehouse cinema and watched The Beautiful Game (2012).
This documentary, directed by award winning Victor Buhler, told the tale of footballers across six African countries including Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Kenya; with guest appearances from Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan and Femi Kuti.
I'm generally only interested in football about every four years, my football fever beginning and ending with the World Cup, but I will admit that this film completely changed my perception of football. Focusing on the highs and lows of inspiring footballer’s lives, and the struggles they face pursuing their dream of signing to a European club.
Emmanuel, one of the lucky few who was given a scholarship to an American high school, was later offered a university place at Harvard, Yale and Stanford. During the Q&A the director even quoted ‘I wouldn't be surprised if he becomes the next Minister of Ghana’. But not all were that lucky, as the ambitious, risk taker Patrick moves from Cameroon to Nigeria for professional training. During his time he unfortunately fall’s victim of corruption and forced to deal with the financial loss, while having to lie to his family of his whereabouts. I thought Patrick’s story was moving and made me realise how unstable a career in football is, with such a small percentage actually 'making it to the top'.
Without giving too much away, women were still portrayed as recessive characters in the film with hardly any female footballers on sight; a reflection of the gender bias we see in football today. However high school student, Charity captivates audiences with her leadership skills while managing her school’s football team.
By the end of the film I came away thinking how powerful football could be at impacting people’s live, even helping create a temporary truce in Ivory Coast's civil war during the 2006 World Cup. Polio sufferer, Francis, used football to empower other disabled children to play football and be recognised amongst the Nairobi slums. Sport has always been a universal language, and football especially helps rich, poor, young or old interact and influence people’s lives economically and socially. So if you've ever wondered what the big deal is about football when men get so emotional (it's just a game!), this film will make you think again.
For more information on The Beautiful Game check out their website at