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Football, or soccer as it’s called in the United States, is the most popular sport on the planet and FC Barcelona is one of the well-supported teams. The history of the club is the subject of Jordi Llompart’s interesting, if one sided, documentary Barça Dreams: A True Story of FC Barcelona.
The two hour long documentary chronicles the origins of the club in 1899 by Swiss businessman Joan Gamper, the impact of the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship on the Catalonian club, to the modern success Barcelona has enjoyed. Over the duration of the movie, many people are interviewed – from current players Leo Messi, Andrés Iniesta and Xavi (now playing for Al Sadd), to former players and managers like Johan Cruyff, Ronald Koeman, Louis van Gaal and Gary Linekar, English and Spanish sports journalists and historian Carlos Santacana.
The aim of Barça Dreams was to look at the philosophies and make-up of the club: not to just be a straight forward telling of their history. The themes of the documentary are Barcelona’s importance to Catalonian identity, the philosophies of playing attacking, passing football, developing players through their youth system and their ownership being in the hands of the fans. Even when the club was founded by Gamper he believed football should be played for the love of the game.
Barça Dreams does look at the club’s founding, its golden periods in the 1920s and 1950 and the how it was affected by General Franco, but the bulk of the documentary looks at how club came to be in its current form. The thesis presented was as stated in the 1970s, when Cruyff and manager Rinus Michels, brought total football to Barça and it evolved when Cruyff became manager in the 1990s – bringing their first Champions League trophy in 1992 and finally developed into Pep Guardiola’s Tika-Taka: a fast, moving brand of football, making Barcelona into the powerhouse it is now. The other part of the thesis followed Diego Maradona’s disappointment in the 1980s when Barcelona formed La Masia – their youth system so the club would also have a spine of their own talent. This is the system that produced the likes of Guardiola and Messi. Even van Gaal was brought in because he used possession style tactics and installed youth players in the first team – it will be interesting to see how Manchester United fans would react because van Gaal is unpopular with fans of The Red Devils.
The other part of the documentary is looking at Barcelona’s rivalry with Real Madrid. The rivalry is not just because they are two top teams in rival cities, but also based on political and national lines. The documentary shows that even in the 1920s Barcelona became an expression of Catalonian nationalism. You have fans booing the Spanish anthem, for instance, which still happens today. Real Madrid was seen as the club representing Spain – favored by the Franco regime: stemming from the Alfredo Di Stefano controversy where both clubs try to sign the same player. As a Brit, the closest comparison I could think of is between the Glasgow teams of Celtic and Rangers, a rivalry based on nationalism and religion. There is no real comparison in American sports.
One of the most interesting stories in the documentary is when it discusses the controversial manager Jose Mourinho applying for the Barcelona job only to be rejected because of his abrasive media style and became Real Madrid’s manager to spite the Catalonians. The documentary also argues that Mourinho made Real Madrid play a rough style of football during El Clasico matches.
The documentary should be taken with a pinch of salt because it was made with the co-operation of FC Barcelona and partly funded by the Catalonian government – these are organizations that are not going to be positive towards Real Madrid. But the players do at least respect their rivals and acknowledge that both clubs need each other – a lesson that Celtic learned the hard way regarding Rangers.
Barça Dreams looks at La Masia, interviewing some of their famous products and some of the players that are in the academy, including some American children. But the documentary shows that only a few candidates make it into La Masia and only a few of those would make in it into first team.
Bara Dreams was directed by Jordi Llompart, a Spanish-American documentary maker and a former journalist on Catalonian television. For the most part Barça Dreams is a standard documentary, having plenty of talking heads and stock footage of matches and of a period in general. Some old photos were edited to give them some motion and some scenes, like when a coach wrote a note which was similar to Amy where Amy Winehouse’s handwritten lyrics came on the screen. But Llompart was very on the nose by showing lava bubbling when describing the rivalry and lightening clouds when showing trouble is brewing. This is the kind of footage The Simpsons parodied in the episode “Behind the Laughter”.
The subtitles were at times hard to read. They were written in a very small text in italics which was bad enough, but when the footage was very light it was impossible to read. A very big problem for a documentary that was in multiple languages.
Barça Dreams could easily have been nothing but a love letter to Barcelona, and Barça fans are going to get the most enjoyment out of it. People who enjoy football should enjoy the documentary, as Barça Dreams does explore beyond the sport.