Football Scores with Filmmakers and Docu Fans!

The FIFA World Cup in Brazil attracts the attention of viewers across the world. However, what makes football interesting to filmmakers? We are bringing you an interview with Tomáš Bojar, screenwriter of TWO NIL.

The FIFA World Cup in Brazil attracts the attention of viewers across the world. However, what makes football interesting to filmmakers? On the occasion of our special Focused on Football film programme dedicated to the start of the World Cup in Brazil, we are bringing you an interview with Tomáš Bojar, screenwriter of TWO NIL. You will learn about the making of a documentary during a single day at the stands of a football stadium and see who the favourite of this year’s world cup is among documentary filmmakers.

In TWO NIL, you and director Pavel Abrhám have decided to show football not only as a sports phenomenon but also as a social phenomenon, bringing together various groups of people; fans, club owners, sports commentators and many others. What were your motivations and reasons to make the film?

The decision was based on a definite, immensely strong feeling that the football stands are a perfect place for a raw, authentic social portrait. Many different people are concentrated at a single spot and exposed to a common spectacle. I believe that it was the diversity of experiences that has fascinated us since the very beginning. Moreover, people relax at the stadium pretty quickly, letting themselves go during the match and forgetting about self-censorship, which is rather important for the natural character of the filmed material. In short, I have sensed some potential there and one day I took Pavel to the stadium with me. After several visits, Pavel became enthused by the idea as well, although he would never go to see the matches before. Both of us soon had a pretty clear idea of what the film should be like, what poetics it should have, and there was no way back. Our intention was simple; to look around, wonder, and wait patiently. We had no intention to illustrate some pre-set theses or achieve some supposedly useful goals; we just wanted to observe things in a sensitive way and hope reality would reward us. Which is what happened, I think.

Which of the protagonists have surprised you most and which, on the other hand, completely lived up to your expectations?

I was very pleasantly surprised to see journalist Jiří Peňás make it to the shooting, as he was not supposed to be there first. It was one of those lucky chances that filmmaking sometimes brings. On the day of the match, one of the many government crises of the past years was culminating, as the Public Affairs party was trying to entertain the nation again. Saša Vondra, who was to sit in the VIP box with Tomáš Kafka according to the original plan, got stuck in Kramar’s Villa. Tomáš Kafka called in Jiří Peňás instead, which was a good thing in the end. The completely non-football perspective Jiří has brought to the film is rather refreshing in my opinion. So many thanks to Vít Bárta and Radek John of the Public Affairs. I was also pleasantly surprised by Leo Kweuke who scored two goals in a quick succession, giving a basic dramaturgic structure as well as a title to our film. I would love to know how Leo is doing now, they say he is playing somewhere in Turkey, however, he seems to have vanished into thin air.

What were the reactions after the release of the film? Did some of the match goers contact you? What was the response of football fans and film critics; two groups that always fight hard to be heard?

I like to remember the film premiere in Prague’s Světozor Cinema which was attended by most of the film protagonists. I don’t want to lie so I’ll admit that we were quite anxious about their reactions. We didn’t manipulate anything by the editing process yet we were pretty sure that they wouldn’t like themselves on the screen and that they would blame us for it. In the end, the exact opposite was true, with one or two exceptions. Almost all of the people seen in the film were enthusiastic about it and kept discussing it at the party until early morning. I found that pretty remarkable and still cannot quite understand it.

Regarding the critics, some of them almost sang our praises, while others rejected the film. However, from what I remember, the reviews were mostly favourable; definitely more favourable than I would have expected them to be. Two Nil is a rather distinctive film that goes beyond mainstream standards. Czech film critics are mostly rather conventional, preferring a “genuine midcult” and having an a priori mistrust of films that do not fit in this framework. So in the end, I was surprised by the critics as well as by the film protagonists.

Currently, sports fans will have their eyes fixed on the FIFA World Cup in Brazil for a whole month. In your opinion, what would a film composed out of scenes filmed by 20 cameras placed at a football match between Brazil and Germany, teams seen as favourites of the international tournament, be like?

I can’t tell. I would go as far as saying that the football played at the World Cup will be so good that I would only point the cameras at the pitch this time.

Do you have some future plans for your film? Are you going to treat another “sports” theme or are your film steps headed completely elsewhere?

Completely elsewhere for the most part. Recently, I’ve been dealing primarily with fiction film, I’m working on two screenplays together with my colleagues. However, that doesn’t make a huge difference; to me, there was always just one cinema; I never quite understood the almost sectarian division of films into fiction and documentary. I often have to laugh when asked: “Is it a film or a documentary?” Moreover, there was one more interesting thing about Two Nil; many people were reluctant to believe that the filmed material could really be natural, rather thinking that the film protagonists were played by hired actors reciting dialogues. I’d never have thought of that.

As for TWO NIL, Pavel and I have been trying to employ our concept abroad in the past year. There is this notion that similar material would be filmed at various international stadiums, resulting in a television series. We are collaborating on the project with a German producer and it seems that there is a certain chance of success. We’ll see how it goes, there is still no big trust of new formats at the European television market, however, it is definitely not lost. If we manage to realize the project, its film language will naturally be different from the one of Two Nil; including the length of shots, montage methods and use of music; in case of a series, we would take a much more “viewer-friendly”, direct approach.

Who will you support at the World Cup?

Argentina, as usual. I have a hunch that they’ll finally make it this year. Messi, Aguero and Higuain will make such a cannonade that commentator Jaromír Bosák will struggle for words. But he will manage in the end.

Thank you for a pleasant interview, Tomáš; and if you have bet on Argentina’s victory this year, we wish you good luck!

Andrea of the team


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