Zidane: a 21st Century Portrait. The best football film ever.

hey, aqui, AQUI!

On April 23, 2005, 17 of the world’s most adept cinematographers and sound engineers descended upon the Bernabeu and focused all of their talents on just one man; Zinedine Zidane. The result is a film that will at times move you, cause you to wander off into your own head, and in the end shock you.

The film has only seen limited theatrical release in the United States and I missed my chance to see it at the IMAX in Seattle and again when it came to Tacoma’s little art house theater. I had been kicking myself ever since. But, I thought in my arrogant American way, it will come out on DVD and I’ll just buy it.  Silly American… I’ve now been waiting 2 years for this film to be released as a region 1 DVD and frankly, I can’t see it ever happening. If it does, I will gladly buy the film. Hell, if any of my readers have a line on where I can get the region 1 disk (legally) I will buy two and give one away here. It’s worth it. This is, after all, my favorite movie since I saw Blade Runner over 20 years ago.

It probably seems like a minor detail because I’d bet a lot of you have universal DVD players, but the fact is that the DVD player attached to my TV is pretty old and won’t play region 2 disks.  VLC player, on my computer, however, is completely universal and that’s what I settled on. So, I went to my local library and put in a request to have the film sent to me from one of the consortia libraries and one week later I got the region 2 DVD: I wasn’t going to pay for a disk I couldn’t play at home, but I really, REALLY wanted to see the film.

It was worth it.

It’s funny. It’s not so much a film as it’s just a piece of art. I mean, yes, there’s a plot but only because football has a plot in a sense. You have your protagonist (Zidane) your antagonist (Marcos Senna) and all sorts of characters coming in and creating all sorts of plot twists (Beckham, Fat Ronaldo, the Ref, etc) but the movie is almost too linear to be a story. Does that make any sense?

It’s more like Warhol’s movie of people sleeping than a story in the traditional sense, but it does have a story and there is character development in a way that most movies now days seem to lack. I guess it’s the story of one day — a day like any other. There’s a bomb going off in Baghdad, there’s a war in Africa. People give speeches they think are important, sign treaties, forget to take the kettle off.  And then, that night, in Madrid, there’s 93 minutes when Real Madrid hosted Villareal and for those 93 minutes that’s all there is going on in the world.

Along the way we learn the subtlety of Zizou, the quiet, what he thinks about while he plays, his grace, his power, his touch, his focus, and his faults. We see the way he kicks the ground with his toes as he paces about the pitch like an animal on the prowl. And through the magic of those magnificent artists behind the camera and the microphone, we hear the roar of the crowd one minute and then next they filter all that out and all we hear is the zen-like breath of Zizou, the thump of the ball as he makes a pass, and the quiet muffled sound of the man as he dribbles around pretty much everyone else on the pitch.

This experience is only heightened by the Mogwai soundtrack, which brilliantly carries us into quiet moments and then loudly heralds moments of action.

Footballistically speaking the film is a masterpiece as well. Zidane’s touch is amazing, I don’t think he lost the ball once, and his reading of the game is spot on. Quietly pacing the pitch, pointing where he wants the ball, accepting the ball and either dribbling around the defender or making the correct pass to a teammate. It’s the perfect portrait of Zidane, the zen master, at the top of his game.

His antagonist is incredible to watch as well. If Zidane is the contemplative, purposeful predator, then Marcos Senna is the perfect all action foil. Marking Zidane the whole game, hell he seems to be marking everyone plus Zidane, Senna is the type of no nonsense, all action, crunching, yet deft passing midfielder that every Arsenal supporter has begged Wenger to buy since Patrick Vieira said his good byes.

If you love the game, if you play the game, you will love this film. If you love film, you will love this film. I can’t recommend it enough.

This is a film you can, no, should, get lost in.

40 Responses to “Zidane: a 21st Century Portrait. The best football film ever.”

  1. 1 Aus
    June 18, 2009 at 7:17 am

    Sounds interesting. Are you sure you can’t just put a code into your DVD player and unlock it for all regions?

  2. 4 Matt
    June 18, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Dude, whatever, everyone knows that Goal II: Living the Dream is the best football film ever, it is scientific fact!

  3. 6 Yan
    June 18, 2009 at 7:50 am

    Nah, Goal II’s pitch action isnt that well portrayed. I’ll search for the movie. Is that it’s title Tim?

  4. 8 jgun
    June 18, 2009 at 7:54 am

    I watched this with great anticipation but let me tell you it is sooooooo difficult trying to watch this. Imagine watching zidane scratch his nuts and stare into space for 95% of the film and thats it! The barcelona documentary in the same channel 4 series is much better.

  5. 10 Matt
    June 18, 2009 at 8:06 am

    I hope everyone knows I was kidding.

    @Tim – this might be a good thread for everyone to list their personal top five fave footy films. Tomorrow we could do top five books.

  6. 11 cescfiberglass
    June 18, 2009 at 8:08 am


    I downloaded it about 2 years ago..maybe a little longer back than that. all I can say is Amazing!! Zidane is a football GOD. It’s all in french, so unless you comprehend (which I do), it will be difficult to watch, but there are subs. great individual shots of him throughout the game. great story, great music (Sing, by Travis). Hope you can find it. I can probably send you a DVD-rip if i can find the DVD it is on. I am in Toronto. I can even mail u a copy of the disc if you wish.

    Another great download I came across a couple of years back was Arsenal unbeaten run video.. All the goals and highlights from that record breaking season of the Invincible’s.

  7. 15 Cord
    June 18, 2009 at 8:35 am

    Here is the movie you are talking about.

    It is hosted on a busy Asian Site … You should press pause it let buffer for a while.

    But anyhoom, here is the flick.


  8. 16 Jet Pinoy Gooner
    June 18, 2009 at 9:26 am

    Top 10 books! That will be great! I will have to put Nick Hornby in there. I will have to think about the other 4.

  9. 17 Travis The Septopus
    June 18, 2009 at 9:28 am

    Have any of you seen the Longest Yard remake with Real football starring Vinnie Jones as the star player Titled “The Mean Machine” great rediculous footy action I highly recommend

  10. 18 Yan
    June 18, 2009 at 9:40 am

    LOL, sorry didnt catch the sarcasm on goal II. What about the old Stallone film where he plays as a goal keeper in WW2? it’s an old one, and I remember there were a couple of real famous players at the time.

  11. 19 Jet Pinoy Gooner
    June 18, 2009 at 9:49 am

    @Yan Thats Escape to Victory

    Anybody seen Shaolin Soccer? :)

  12. 20 Yan
    June 18, 2009 at 10:43 am

    That’s it Jet Pinoy! I knew the spanish title, which happens to be a direct translation(Escape a la Victoria), but that isnt always the case.

  13. 21 Mia
    June 18, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Sorry to keep replying to yesterday’s posts; it’s partly a function of the time-gap – we in Europe go to bed when some of you are thinking about lunch. If it irritates you, just say and I’ll stop.

    I didn’t want to be harsh about Walcott. It’s more that I’m concerned for his future because I was actually quite upset to see him looking so unhappy and puzzled – why are all these defenders closing in on me? why do I keep falling over the ball? why don’t my runs down the right work anymore? Yes, precisely, he’s been out injured and therefore had a great deal of time to watch and learn and think about how he might develop his game. I’d hope there was someone to help him with this – i.e. talk with him, analyse videos, discuss tactics and techniques he could learn – but maybe injured young players are just left on their own and the club’s only concern is getting them back to physical fitness? Trouble is, that hat trick against Croatia hasn’t done him any favours long term: the Croatians were complacent and hadn’t seen him before; now, alas, the whole world is wise to his pace (as we witnesses in the semi-final against United and again, distressingly, against Finland on Monday). My point is, he has to change and become a more intelligent player, but hasn’t so far shown any sign of realising this. Let’s hope he does better against Spain this evening and doesn’t suffer a further blow to his confidence, though since the under-21 manager is worse than useless, in my view, I’m not holding my breath he’ll have had any help.

    The Zidane movie, the one that’s actually a movie of Villarreal v. Real? Yes, I liked it; it had its moments, definitely – Beckham says something, Zidane laughs . . .

    • June 18, 2009 at 11:36 am

      Don’t worry about continuing the comments, it’s really no problem.

      I’m not too worried about Theo, he’s only 20 years old and already in 38 matches he’s scored 8 goals and notched 3 assists. His main competition in the England squad at right wing is either Defoe or SWP, both of which are at least 26 years old and can’t hold a candle to our young Theo. SWP played in 50 matches in all competitions and barely managed 10 goals and 7 assists. If you extrapolate Theo’s numbers out to the same number of games (38/50=.76, 8 goals/.76, etc) then Theo would have managed 10 goals and 4 assists.

      And he’s only 20. SWP is 27.

      It’s a little early to say that defenses have him figured out.

      • 23 CaribKid
        June 18, 2009 at 1:44 pm

        You forgot Aaron Lennon Tim. He is only missing the final ball.

        As for what Mia said, Walcott does seem to lack basic football intelligence and it’s difficult to believe the Arsenal training staff is doing anything to lift his game. If he doesn’t start out on fire he just disappears.

        Hopefully, Theo and the coaches can sort out that on field organization and positioning which most great players do automatically.

  14. 24 Travis The Septopus
    June 18, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Shoalin Soccer is pretty funy at points especially the version i saw was an early version and the subtitles were very flawed. Love the scene with the girls with fake mustaches.

  15. 25 Stu5
    June 18, 2009 at 11:57 am

    is the zidane film just a fictional drama or it’s just a recording of a game focussing entirely on zidane with speech and stuff added later?

  16. 27 Jet Pinoy Gooner
    June 18, 2009 at 12:52 pm


    So was it more like a documentary of how Zidane is in the pitch but more aristic in terms of presentation?

  17. 29 WC
    June 18, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Everyone should try to watch Green Stgreet Hooligans at least once. It’s very much a darker side to football.

  18. 30 Jet Pinoy Gooner
    June 18, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Is that with Elijah Wood?

  19. June 18, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Guys 4me zizou was like another footballer 4rm another planet and i had a chance to see him once but not in a football pitch, i mean in a live match. I want to ask cescfiberglass in Toronto if you can dude send me all those videos that you have of the Gunners and zizou. This is my email adress; myrmulima@yahoo.com.

  20. 33 Jet Pinoy Gooner
    June 18, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Green street hooligans has a part 2 already.

  21. June 18, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    I love football so much and movies with subtle undertones and stories but I didn’t think it was as great as you make it sound. It was one of Zidane’s worser games and while the movie was artistic and had deeper meaning it was a fast forward sort of movie.

  22. 36 bobbygee
    June 18, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    Sounds like a very good film. Check out my blog http://bobbygee.wordpress.com/

  23. 37 Matt
    June 18, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    The film is available in its entirety on google video.

  24. 38 T-Town
    June 18, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    On the Zidane movie: I watched it in an actual cinema in Seattle one year or so ago, with 2 friends. Let me tell you that it is a movie best watched of you are stoned. Not drunk, but stoned. Unfortunately for me, I went to watch it drunk but not stoned, and I fell asleep somewhere around half time.
    Best football movie ever: It HAS to be Shaolin soccer.

  25. 39 T-Town
    June 18, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    I didn’t intend to sound negative. It is a great movie. Just don’t watch it when you’re drunk.

  26. 40 Matt
    June 19, 2009 at 5:19 am

    I watched it.

    Even in low-resolution, it is fantastic.

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