War Games

By sizemore Last edited 163 months ago
War Games

We love a home grown success story here at Londonist and this is a doozy.

Take two plucky Brits, some video equipment, a paltry budget (begged, borrowed but probably not stolen) and drop them in a war zone to find something uplifting in the mess that is Sudan...

We were invited to see a preview of War Games this afternoon in sun drenched Soho and we are the first to admit we dragged our heels expecting for some reason a sorrow soaked harrowing documentary, but boy were we surprised...

War Games is an intimate portrait of a community, recently devastated by war, struggling to put itself back together again and to stage an Olympic games for thousands of children from the surrounding villages. The film follows the organisers as they struggle with broken goalposts, hungry players, and the constant threat of bombing by the Sudan government, all in scorching daily temperatures upwards of 50 degrees Celsius (130 degrees Fahrenheit and more)

Still sounds a little heavy? Stick around after the jump and we'll tell you why this film will have you laughing out loud as it wrenches even the most cynical heart...

War Games was filmed a few hundred miles from Darfur shortly before the war there hit the headlines, but the people we meet are hardly victims. Faced with a terrible civil war and a whole generation who have never known peace the people of Twic did the most bizarre thing - they organised their own bootleg version of the Olympic Games.

If you think the arguments raging here over our own bid are at all important then this film will make you take a hard long look at your priorities. Creating a football pitch from scratch on dusty hard land, outlining a pitch from illustrations in a battered book... all on empty stomachs and the constant fear of aerial bombardment. Yet the people never lose their goodwill, in fact they simply smile and joke about it directing their rage instead towards the poor referees and officials who it seems are belittled no matter where in the world you find them.

Football is just one of many events put on over the course of the games with new ones added each year as their popularity grows. Thousands of children arrive to participate, all needing food, mostly barefooted, runaway boy soldiers mixed in with the people they once would have been forced to shoot at. And all bewildered by events such as the Long Jump which an official tries his best to explain is a world wide sport and not something he just made up for their amusement. Football then is the main focus and what a cross section of matches we are treated to. Gangly kids running the hell out of the 'pitch' in temperatures twice as hot as the ones that almost killed us on the way to the cool air conditioned screening room.

And it's not every day you see roaming cattle stopping play or badly welded goalposts falling apart before the tensest penalty shoot out ever. And believe us that you've never seen a pitch invasion on this scale when that last ball shoots home.

There are other heart-warming moments (the handing out of shirts to kids still wearing the rags of last year's colours as they clutch their medals is particularly memorable) but film makers Heather Baker and Marc Allen have a great eye for the little details such as a gun in the crowd here or one little chap standing proudly in donated trainers that look a thousand sizes too big for him. And then there's the question of food.

As one 'Olympic' official ponders the problem of being bombed we cut to a single plane and suddenly the air is filled with falling... sacks? It's a food drop and again our preconceptions are dumbfounded as instead of slowly falling parachutes the pitch is suddenly pounded by huge sacks of falling grain simply hoisted from the tail of a plane. Once it's safe to venture out the split bags have to be collected, every single grain picked up and redistributed only to find out that this is the wrong type of grain and the children still need feeding...

But somehow they do get fed, they run, race and kick with such exuberance that you want to drag just one professional overpaid drug addled twat of a footballer from off the chest of some page three model and rub his face in the dirt until it bleeds. But maybe that's just us because we are bitter - something the kids of Sudan are not. They happily mob around a single ancient TV set in the middle of the field to watch their hero Rinaldo do his thing before going off to play better than him on their home made pitch.

The documentary has already screened with great success at the Amnesty International Film Festival in Los Angeles and has been picked up by the BBC to be broadcast worldwide as part of their Live 8 coverage and a London screening is planned for September - 25% of profits go straight back to the community in Sudan. We'll give you all the details as soon as we have them (or you can contact the film makers directly here) because we want you to see this . There's not many life affirming docs out there at the moment as it's all to easy to point a camera at the fucked up stuff, thankfully War Games doesn't go for the easy option and is all the more rewarding for it.

Last Updated 23 June 2005