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DUBLÍN 2020

Crítica: Street Leagues

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- El documental de Daniel F. Holmes narra el viaje de los jugadores de las Irish Homeless Street Leagues, de la desesperación y la adicción al poder curativo del fútbol

Crítica: Street Leagues

Este artículo está disponible en inglés.

This year’s Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival (26 February-8 March 2020) has hosted another world premiere of an Irish production – that of Daniel F Holmes’ documentary Street Leagues [+lee también:
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. Here, the director documents the Irish Homeless Street Leagues players’ journey as they beat drug and alcohol addictions, and overcome homelessness and other unfortunate circumstances. This is the helmer’s second feature, following his debut, Dive (2018), a film revolving around a young Irish swimmer called Tara (played by Vanessa Schaeffer), who finds out that she is pregnant before taking part in the biggest competition of her career.

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During the first few sequences of Street Leagues, the viewer gets acquainted with the world of the Irish Homeless Street Leagues, where players of all different ages – ranging from approximately 20-45 – train on dusty, suburban pitches and challenge each other in the spirit of fair play, pride and co-operation, while demonstrating incredible will power. Throughout the film, the birth of the organisation and how it has developed are explained in detail by several talking-heads scenes starring founder Sean Kavanagh, who tirelessly tries to keep the leagues up and running. The players highlight how important it is for them to wear a sports kit, as it gives them the chance to temporarily forget their everyday troubles and be just like anyone else for a few hours.

Gradually, playing football allows them to dream again. And, indeed, we follow them chasing a new, unexpected dream: joining the national football team and playing for the World Cup. Of course, in this case, we are not talking about the lucrative, heavily sponsored FIFA event, but about the 2017 Homeless World Cup, which took place in Oslo and saw the participation of both the Irish women’s and men’s teams. It is touching to see how these people get competitive, gain self-confidence and are emotionally involved while singing the national anthem.

Aesthetically speaking, the documentary is partly influenced by the audiovisual language of television formats, and its narrative is not presented in a particularly original manner. Overall, the events follow a linear timeline, and most of the last two-thirds of the film is dedicated to the pre-match sessions and games played by both the men’s and the women’s teams. Perhaps a longer running time for the movie, allowing it to focus on some of the players’ backstories, could have further increased the depth and potential of this work.

Nonetheless, what is really noteworthy is the film’s message, which is conveyed effectively. In other words, Street Leagues is a celebration of a group of men and women who have bravely fought against their demons and found salvation through the healing power of sport. “Football connected us to society again,” says one of the players in the women’s team towards the end, and she is right. Moreover, several interview excerpts starring popular Irish thesp Colin Farrell, who is the official ambassador of Ireland’s Homeless Street Leagues, may also contribute to spreading the word about this curious but very useful initiative, which constantly needs to be funded in order to be run in Dublin and nationally. Kavanagh’s endeavour certainly deserves more attention in a country that is still suffering from the effects of a soaring housing crisis and which has not yet solved many of its social-exclusion issues. Holmes honours the organisation’s work and offers it a neat, bright spotlight.

The ending reveals something about the future of these brave players: many of them are now back in full-time work, study or work as coaches. On the whole, the documentary leaves viewers with a positive, hopeful message and makes it clear that it’s never too late to get your life back on track.

Street Leagues was produced by Dublin-based outfit Bankhouse Productions.

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(Traducción del inglés)

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