Football in focus at Bilbao film festival

Tenth annual event shows the game from every angle

Action and debate go hand in hand at the Thinking Football Film Festival

To screen from October 9 in Bilbao, the annual Thinking Football Film Festival marks its tenth anniversary with documentaries covering subjects as diverse as Cameroon’s World Cup adventure in 1990, young players with Down’s Syndrome and Georgia’s first football club.

As in previous years, when Osvaldo Ardiles, Bob Bradley and Thomas Hitzlsperger made personal appearances, there will be a special guest: Thomas N’Kono, goalkeeper for the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, who will take part in the Cineforum discussion tied in with the screening of Green Lions.

The festival grew out of the collaboration between the local Bank of Bilbao (BBK) and the Athletic Club Foundation, a grass-roots body set up in 2002 to better connect Athletic Bilbao to the local community. Along with overseeing the club’s academy – solely comprised, like the time-honoured senior team, of players of Basque origin – the foundation later expanded its remit to initiate cultural, educational and environmental projects.

Athletic Bilbao Museum/Peterjon Cresswell

One shining example is the Thinking Football Film Festival. It takes place at the Sala BBK, a multi-purpose venue on the city’s main avenue, the Gran Vía, which runs west to the San Mamés, home of Athletic Bilbao.

The aim of the film festival aligns with the purpose of the Athletic Club Foundation, which organises the film forum sessions to discuss issues raised by each documentary. The films tell human and social stories related to the world of football, helping the viewer to better understand the power of the game today.

Representatives from the production team, the director or cast member join experts in the field and representatives of Athletic Club in the forum, a kind of mixed zone for intelligent debate.

Peña Athletic del Casco Viejo/Peterjon Cresswell

The inaugural festival kicked off in 2013 with the film Football Rebels, featuring Predrag Pašić and Rachid Mekhloufi who both came to Bilbao, one a former Yugoslav international who stayed in Sarajevo during the Siege to run a football academy, the other who shunned a call-up to the 1958 World Cup for France to join the FLN team supporting the case for Algerian independence by playing around the world.

In the ten years since, filmmakers have focused on a girls’ team in a remote part of Nepal, the Haitian national side preparing for a major tournament and the Workers’ Cup between migrant labourers in Qatar – among scores of other topics.

This year’s event starts on October 9 and runs until October 14. For the full programme, see hereFilms will be shown in their original language, with subtitles in Spanish, as well as in English or Basque where appropriate. Admission is free – just click on each individual film on the website to book your seat.

Sala BBK, Gran Vía López de Haro 19-21, 48001 Bilbao.