Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Kicking It

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Hobos Find Self-Esteem Competing for Homeless World Cup

When you’re homeless, as the late Rodney Dangerfield used to say, “You don’t get no respect.” Street people are generally shunned by society to the point where some start to wonder whether they are still fully human.
For this reason, Kicking It, narrated by Colin Farrell, is an important documentary. The movie marks the remarkable directorial debut of Susan Koch who ventured to Cape Town, South Africa to record for posterity a soccer competition called the Homeless World Cup. The event was the brainchild of the World Economic Forum which sought to dramatize the plight of the least of our brethren by offeringg them an opportunity to prove themselves at the sport that the rest of the world calls football.
The games were staged at the same time as the official World Cup in 2006, but the national teams entered here were all comprised completely of the homeless. Among the 48 countries represented were the United States, Kenya, Rwanda, Ireland, Namibia, Mexico, Uganda, Afghanistan, Holland, Russia, Paraguay, Australia, Ghana, Finland, Spain and Kazakhstan, to name a few.
This is not a film to be watched merely for the soccer matches, although a sports fan might find that aspect of the production compelling. Rather, what makes the picture worthwhile are the intimate portraits painted of seven of the participants. From Dublin we have Damien, a goalie who wants to get off methadone, and his team captain Simon a recovered addict who is still grieving the loss of a brother to drugs.
Then, there’s Alex from Kenya, who supports his family back in Nairobi by cleaning toilets in a soccer stadium. Meanwhile, ex-con Jesus, 63, hails from Madrid, where he did time for bank robbery. Despite his age, he’s considered the heart and soul of the Spanish team which is made up of substance abusers, alcoholics and a prostitute.
19 year-old Afghani Najib admits to being plagued by nightmares triggered by memories of public executions carried out by the Taliban’s reign of terror which claimed the lives of his father and a couple of his siblings. Craig, an orphan from Charlotte, North Carolina, also 19, has anger management issues due to an unstable childhood spent on a merry-go-round inside the foster care system. The film’s final subject is Slava an undocumented and hence unemployable Russian whose country now has over 5,000,000 similarly-situated street people.
After the closing festivities, Kicking It signs off with a bittersweet postscript updating how everyone we’ve just met is doing today, whether unchanged, relapsed, deceased or finally inspired to get off the streets and find gainful employment. A tearjerker certain to elicit concern and compassion from anyone watching for the billion on the planet still homeless.

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Running time: 98 minutes
Studio: Liberation Entertainment

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