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K & S Interview: 90 Minutes director Ab Winsemius

Kicking & Screening talks with Ab Winsemius, director of 90 Minutes, screening at MASS MoCA on April 24, as part of the Kicking & Screening Soccer Film Fest.

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What inspired you to film in the US , not known for its soccer fervor compared to the rest of the world?

I “heart” NYC and I “heart” fpptball – that’s the most important inspiration. I’ve played football with and against numerous nationalities ever since I arrived in NYC in 2002. It’s amazing. If you like football, you have to love it here. You can’t really equate NYC to the rest of the US. Back in November 2005, I was reading some statistics that close to 40% of all New Yorkers were not born in the US. Six out of ten babies born in New York, have at least one foreign parent. There are over 185 different nationalities living in the city. That’s amazing. In preparing for the documentary we found that there were 20 Latin American leagues alone in NYC. We got to about 40 different leagues in our research. Another major source of inspiration was a book called “Football Against the Enemy” by Simon Kuper, a journalist and columnist for the Financial Times. In this book he presents stories from all over the world that each in their own way express how football is a reflection of society and vice versa. I felt I could tell that story within the city of New York. So when I found myself spending my evenings in a hotel lobby in LA for two months for work in early 2006, I started writing a treatment, largely based on Simon Kuper’s book. Based on these stories and some basic research into the countries that participated in the World Cup, I wrote profiles of the characters I wanted to find for each country. Then we took a culinary guide to international cuisines in NYC and took to the streets to find football fans from all 32 countries.

Were you surprised by the allegiances to “home countries”, by even second and¬†third generation Americans, when¬†watching the World Cup?

Not at all. Being a foreigner myself, I completely understand how much more important your nationality is to your identity when you’re outside of your own country. Makes sense right? If everyone is Dutch, who cares about you being Dutch? But when nobody else is Dutch, you are more Dutch than you’ve ever been before, whether you like it or not. I think that sense of identity might become even more significant to second or third generation Americans.

Did you encounter any immigrants who were rooting for the US or other countries, irrespective of how their own, home country was playing in the Cup?

Yes – all the time. First of all, there were of course tons of football fans from countries that hadn’t qualified for the World Cup. They tend to adopt one or two favorite teams based on history, playing style, and in the case of smaller countries, geographical proximity. For instance, in the film our Mexican character, Felipe, states minutes after Mexico got knocked out of the tournament by Argentina, that he now supports any other South American country and even the US, because I feels he is American. All our African characters also root for the other African countries, because they feel they are a small force in the world and want to show the world that they can take a stand and be a force to be reckoned with. Their lack of success in other areas on a global scale completely unites them

Is it a paradox? On one hand, the World Cup brings so many together, yet at the same time loyalties seem to stay on cultural and national lines.

Yes.¬† It’s true that it provides a topic of conversation allowing you to speak to anyone. And it definitely opens doors, as we noticed when we starting approaching people to participate in the movie. It also provides a great podium for the world to discuss topics such as racism and equality.¬† However, the conversation tends to be fairly shallow when pertaining to the World Cup. Our Tunisian character mentioned that it doesn’t help the world to let two countries play against each other in a stadium filled with thousands and thousands of fans, because something gets lost in the audience when people are only encouraged to increase their sense of national identity and chew their opposition out. He said: “Football can only help the world if we let thousands of Jews play football against thousands of Muslims” And he’s right. It’s the opposite of what happens in a stadium. On a pitch, you don’t get lost in mass hysteria, often with many negative excesses. On a pitch you’re very much an individual playing with and against other individuals. If you play the game often enough you get to really know and understand the other individuals out there.

What was most surprising to you as revealed during filming?

This may sound a bit obvious at first, but I wish everybody could experience this for themselves. New York is home to an amazing amount of amazing little societies. Each completely self-sufficient and successful, yet fairly segregated from each other. They interact and are all very curious about each other but they still find it hard to mingle. There are obvious examples of the Italian community down their in Bayridge. Beautiful, passionate people. But our Ghanaian character Kofi introduced us to the Ashinti tribe. Did you know there are 10.000 Ashanti’s in The Bronx?¬† They have a fully functional tribe structure, including job agencies, tax services, lawyers, banks and everything. Absolutely amazing and from what we could see, super successful. Same goes for our Ivorian and Angolan characters. It is absolutely amazing to experience how all these societies from all these different countries bring their own culture and habits along and it’s all right there on such a relatively small piece of earth. These are the real American Dreams to me. Not the rags to riches of a poor immigrant that made it big in electronics, but these small societies that make it all happen together and help each other to live happy, successful lives. Sorry, I got a little sentimental there, but I encourage everyone – football fans and non-fans – to just take one summer Saturday afternoon and go to soccer pitches in Red Hook. Around those two pitches you can eat and drink your way from Argentina to Mexico. It is sublime.

Were there any extreme stories of fans? Do fans have any superstitions about watching?

There were a lot of extreme stories and all of them very different. Some people wear the same underwear on game day without washing until their team loses. Others walk out of every room backwards on game day. One story about an extreme football fan, that touched me very much was our Serbian character, Dushan. In Belgrade he was an Ultra, an extreme hardcore fan of Red Star Belgrade. During the MiloŇ°evi?’ regime, one of MiloŇ°evi?’s ally’s, a mobster called Arkan, recruited guerillas directly from the terraces of Red Star Belgrade. They had tried to recruit Dushan as well. Fortunately, Dushan’s dad saw what was happening and helped him apply for a green card, which he won. The Arkan Tiger’s later carried out all the dirty work for Milosovitsch. They were responsible for the biggest part of the genocide that took place there. Dushan knew many of them. He got away, became a barman in NYC, opened a very successful place called Employees Only, and even placed second at the World Bartending Championships.

Posted April 1, 2010 by Brittany Bishop
Filed under BLOG, Film, Kicking & Screening Soccer Film Fest
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New Event added for May

foodandfilmWe’re doing a special fundraising event to support summer programming on May 5 at David Lang’s NYC loft.¬† Its an evening of food and film with David (who co-founded Bang on a Can and in his spare time won a Pulitzer Prize two years ago) and our fearless leader Joe as well as filmmaker Jonathan Parker.

Jonathan will show his film,¬† Untitled, a comic satire that’s become an indie hit since its premiere at the Palm Springs International Film Festival in 2009.¬† The New York Times calls it an “acutely witty art world satire.”

After the film stay for takeout from Kelley & Ping and talk about what you’ve just seen.¬† Space is quite limited so reserve today!

Posted March 28, 2010 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Bang on a Can, BLOG, Film
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K&S Interview: Mauro Shampoo director Cunha Lima

Rachel Markus, Director of Kicking & Screening, ¬†sent us interviews with several of the ¬†filmmakers whose work is being shown as part of the Kicking & Screening Soccer Film Fest at MASS MoCA¬†on April 23 & 24. First up is¬†Leonardo Cunha Lima, director of ‚ÄúMauro Shampoo: Soccer Player Hairdresser and Macho,‚ÄĚ screening as part of the Soccer Shorts on April 24.

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How did you find out about Mauro Shampoo?

It is an interesting tale because I was borne in Recife, the city where Mauro and the Ibis football team are from. But I had never heard about them while I lived there. During the 80’s when Ibis became famous for loosing during three consecutive years, I was in England where my parents were doing their PhDs. Later I moved to Rio de Janeiro to attend film school, and one night I was telling a friend about what kind of film I would like to make. Tim Burton had just made his Ed Wood film about the worst American filmmaker, and I told this friend that the right thing to do would be to make a film about football as its the only thing that all Brazilians love, but that I would not be keen to make a film about the best Brazilian team or player or the World Cup, like the films that everyone else was making. My football film would be about the worst team ever. My friend then just smiled and said, yeah like making a film about Ibis would be funny. That was the first time I heard about the team. When I urged him to tell me more about Ibis, the story just blew by mind. Here was a perfect subject for a documentary about Brazil and football, a rather funny and at the same time moving picture about the true Brazil and as it would be about football everyone, would be interested in seeing it. I could not believe that no one had ever done a documentary about it yet. At the time I was living in Rio de Janeiro, which was very far from Recife, so I waited for the right time to be able to go back to Recife to make the film. This little wait took around 10 years, and in the meantime I meet Paulo and for whom I worked as an AD in a short film and when I told about the Ibis project we decided to make it together.

We first heard about Mauro Thorp while viewing old Globo News broadcasts about the Ibis as research material for the feature documentary we intended to make about the team. Mauro Shampoo was incredibly funny, and we realized we had our star for the feature. In the end we were not able to lock down the financing to make a feature film. That’s when I told Paulo that we should just go to Recife by ourselves to make the necessary connections and conduct on-site research about the team as we were dealing with an utterly unwritten history. My main idea was actually to make a short film along side the research thereby making the unfinanced trip worthwhile. By shooting a short film about Mauro Shampoo, which later we could use as part of the feature film and the possible subsequent success of the short in international film festivals could be used to get funding for the feature documentary about the Ibis Sport Club. I arrived in Recife and took a borrowed camera to film the preliminary interview with Mauro, just so we would have an audio record of his story to later plan the film around it. But this first interview was so electrifying that we could not recreate that first spark again, so most of the film’s scenes of him in his barber salon talking to the camera were taken from that very first meeting.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted March 18, 2010 by Brittany Bishop
Filed under BLOG, Kicking & Screening Soccer Film Fest
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Must see movie

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If you’re headed to Sundance you should try to get tickets to Sam Taylor-Wood’s film, Nowhere Boy. (Salon.com loved it.)¬† Sam’s work is part of These Days: Elegies for Modern Times, currently on view through the middle of February on the second and third floors.

Posted January 28, 2010 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Exhibitions, Film
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Lie, Cheat, Steal and Fake it Kicks Off

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David Denby wrote glowingly in The New Yorker about American Casino on September 7.¬† Its the first film in our Lie, Cheat, Steal and Fake It documentary series which kicks off on January 20 at 7:30 with this tale of the subprime mortgage crisis by Andrew and Leslie Cockburn.¬† As the New Yorker explains, “The husband-and-wife team of Leslie (director and writer) and Andrew (writer) Cockburn are veterans of many documentaries on war and nuclear proliferation. The Cockburns have finally made a movie about a nuclear disaster that actually happened‚ÄĒtheir subject is the social ecology of financial meltdown.”

Shawn Rosenheim will introduce the film and lead a post-screening discussion about the film and the issues it raises.

Posted January 11, 2010 by MASS MoCA
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The perils of automatic spell check

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Ralph (aka Rafael) Farris from ETHEL offers a final update before their performance with La Nave de los Monstrous TONIGHT!  Tickets not available online but you can get them at the door so come on down!

Hola Amigos!

First of all, SORRY! Massive typo in my last posting. At the end, I had MEANT to write “Abrazos, Rafael”. But it looks like my spell-checker didn’t like the word “Abrazos”, and took it upon itself to write “Abrams, Rafael” instead.

…Abrams, Rafael? Wow. I’m a but wacky I know, but I ain’t THAT wacky. Anywho, moving on…

So we just had our run-thru. And it went swimmingly. Only a few page-turn problems and 3 or 4 note switcheroos, nothing really big to fix. Yay.

Again, very strange to feel so… calm.

Mary was playing drum rolls on her chin rest, Neil auditioned (and rejected!) a kazoo, Dorothy perfected her penny whistle performance, and my recorder playing has almost returned to a second grade level. Woo-hoo!

This movie is great. The music is a blast to play, Dorothy’s dance captain-ing is absolutely priceless, and the whole show is just darn good fun. We do hope y’all can come by. It’s gonna be a craaaaazy fiesta!

Abrazos(!),

Rafael

Posted October 30, 2009 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Film, Film+Live Music, Music
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