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The Referees

  • Film
  • 2 out of 5 stars
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Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars
The refs and their assistants are the least loved arbiters of the beautiful game of football. This presumptuous, mildly diverting and intentionally myopic profile of the men in black – here filmed officiating at Euro 2008 in Switzerland and Austria – did its festival round in 2009 under the more provocative title ‘Kill the Referee!’.

This was a reference to bald-headed Brit ref Howard Webb (pictured), who received death threats following his decision to allow a clearly offside goal to Austria in their game against Poland at that championship. The filmmakers probably thought this a lucky break and as a consequence, Webb (a bluff, relatively boring one-time Yorkshire police sergeant, later ref of the recent World Cup final) and his histrionically proud family feature quite prominently here – a risky move which, arguably, unbalances an already obfuscatory enterprise.

The film shows little artistic pretension – it’s no ‘Zidane’– but the directors’ strategy of eschewing commentary or voiceover, focusing solely during the games on the match officials’ movements and expletive-filled microphone communications, and not identifying directly any team, player or coach does produce some delightful, unintentional and trivialising effects.

Even for footy fans, the film’s a game of guesswork. Is that Massimo Busacca exclaiming ‘We are not gods!’? That’s Ballack there punching the opposition: is that the Germany v Spain game? For mere film fans, it’s a complete, if minor, mystery. ‘Why does he insist on that bull face?’ says Roberto Rosetti’s wife at home in Italy watching her husband officiating at the Greece-Russia match. You won’t find any answers here – but the questions are fun.
Written by Wally Hammond

Release Details

  • Rated:15
  • Release date:Friday 5 August 2011
  • Duration:81 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Yves Hinant, Eric Cardot, Lehericey Delphine
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