AFRICA IS A COUNTRY

When marketing men make films about football
Sean Jacobs | October 20th, 2013

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I finally got around to watching “Thierry Henry 1:1″ on iTunes. The promo material is written in breathless prose: “Who is the personality hidden in this dream career? … What are his ideals? What goals does he want to reach? … Thierry Henry is a world star torn between past and present.” This is all false advertising as nothing is really at stake in this film.

What is marketed as a film about the career of Henry—the highest scorer in the history of Arsenal, before he joined the New York Red Bulls in 2010—is really a 52-minute PR video made for the benefit of the Red Bulls, the MLS and their sponsors; the film is produced by Red Bull Media House.

Stock images of the tourist parts of Manhattan, central Paris and London are intercut with Henry prepping for two meaningless matches—the 2011 MLS All Star Game (the best of the MLS vs Manchester United’s summer team in New Jersey) and the “Emirates Cup” (Red Bulls vs Arsenal). In the Emirates Cup game, a draw means Red Bulls win and Henry will receive a meaningless trophy. The filmmakers act like these matches mean something. They even rope in Hans Backe (former Red Bulls coach) to speak about tactics while riding on the team bus.

Henry mostly comes across as bored. One of the few times he shows real interest is when asked about whether he would like to visit Highbury (Arsenal’s old stadium). Here Henry seems genuinely emotional speaking about the stadium where he played 7 of his 8 years with Arsenal while scoring 288 goals for the club. But then the directors move on to other stock themes. While the film discusses Henry’s upbringing (he talks about his dad as a major influence) and the beginnings of his career (Monaco where he met Arsene Wenger and Juventus, where he did not do so well), this is done with no actual footage, except a few still photographs. Oh, and I don’t remember any reference to that handball goal that assured France’s qualification to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. This all adds up to an unsatisfying viewing experience which actually does a disservice to Henry’s legacy.

Unfortunately “Thierry Henry 1:1” is proof of what happens when the marketing men make films about football. Sadly most football “documentaries” nowadays look like this.

Here’s the trailer:

* This is an edited version of a post that first appeared on our futbol tumblr, Football is a Country.

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Sean Jacobs

Otherwise known as Hasan Wasan.


One thought on “When marketing men make films about football

  1. It reminds me a bit of the TV series “Black Mirror”. There is an episode were everyone cycles while watching television, and dream of being selected to stop cycling. The trailer looks and feels very much like the television that the people watched on that show.

    A great reminder for how filmmakers must remain authentic.

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