Sporting Lives

Waffle follows: in Cinema 1: The Movement-Image Gilles Deleuze theorises that the historically dominant form of cinema is the large scale action-image. In this a situation provokes an action which in turn gives rise to new situation. The dominant figure in this cinema is the binominal or duel between opposing forces – be it armies in battle, lawyers in court, boxers in the ring, or players in the field.

With this season we showcase five films using sports as a route into exploring wider conflicts within society in both fiction and documentary formats.

The Arsenal Stadium Mystery

Thorold Dickinson | UK | 1939 | 84 minutes

During a football match between Arsenal and amateur side Trojans the latter’s new star striker collapses and dies. Inspector Slade of the Yard determines it to be murder but who committed the crime and why?

In the 1930s Arsenal were innovators at the forefront of English football. Unfortunately for them and their fans the war then interrupted the football schedule for the next six years, with the reconvened team failing to continue their pre-war dominance. Fortunately for us this film remains as a fascinating document of a long-lost football culture.

Hoop Dreams

Steve James | USA | 1994 | 170 minutes
Two young inner-city basketball players try to overcome the obstacles of the hood in hopes of making it to the NBA. The gripping story of William Gates and Arthur Agee is as much about race, class, and education as it is about sports. Rated by many as one of the best sports documentaries.

The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg

Aviva Kempner | USA | 1998 | 90 minutes
Hank Greenberg was more than just a baseball superstar. He was an icon – the pride and joy of the Jewish Americans in the 1930s and 40s amidst rampant anti-Semitism. This emotional film recounts how the Hall of Famer became a beloved figure in the Jewish community, how he nearly broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home-run record and how he was, due to the discrimination he faced himself, one of the few players to openly welcome Jackie Robinson to the sport.

Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India

Ashutosh Gowariker | India | 2001 | 224 minutes
Lagaan means tax in the Hindi language. Set in Raj-era India, the tax in question here is that levied by the British colonialist power upon the indigenous Indian population. One village is offered a wager: three years paying no taxes if they can defeat a team of British soldiers at cricket, or paying three times the normal (already high) rate if they lose. Up until this point cricket is very much alien to the villagers. They soon find common cause as they realise what victory means…

Due to the length of Lagaan – it is Bollywood, after all, even if also a massive cross-over success with wider audiences – it will be shown over two screenings. The first screening will show the build-up to the cricket match, the second the match itself.

The Trials of Muhammad Ali

Bill Siegel | USA | 2014 | 94 minutes
Focuses on the explosive crossroads of Ali’s life, when Cassius Clay becomes Muhammad Ali, his conversion to Islam and refusal to serve in the Vietnam War leave him banned from boxing and facing a five-year prison sentence. Ali’s choice of belief and conscience over fame and fortune resonates far beyond the boxing ring, striking issues of race, faith and identity.

Back to the list of 2014-15 seasons