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Ajax – Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Chronicling the thrashing taken by Amsterdam's professional soccer team during the club's luckless centennial year, "Ajax -- Hark the Herald Angels Sing" is an insightful account of sports elevated to the high-stakes, high-pressure level of big business. While European soccer fans constitute its automatic audience, this polished documentary incorporates sufficient off-field suspense and human drama to grip non-aficionados as well, making it an appealing item for nonfiction TV programming.

Chronicling the thrashing taken by Amsterdam’s professional soccer team during the club’s luckless centennial year, “Ajax — Hark the Herald Angels Sing” is an insightful account of sports elevated to the high-stakes, high-pressure level of big business. While European soccer fans constitute its automatic audience, this polished documentary incorporates sufficient off-field suspense and human drama to grip non-aficionados as well, making it an appealing item for nonfiction TV programming.

Unlike sports docus such as “Hoop Dreams” or recent Sundance entry “Go Tigers!,” director Roel van Dalen’s film concentrates less on the athletes than on the complex circus surrounding the soccer club, with its concerns of image, economics and competition. Accompanied by composer Ernst Reijseger’s elegant string commentary, the focus shifts smoothly between the professional team, trying anxiously to put a disastrous season behind it and get into championship mode; the junior team being groomed for future stardom and subjected to only marginally less psychological torture; the search for raw recruits in Ghana; and the behind-the-scenes machinations and media prodding that lead to the A team’s scapegoat coach being ousted.

Ajax - Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Netherlands

Production: An RCV Film Distribution release of an ID & DTV Arts & Events/NPS production. (International sales: ID & DTV, Netherlands.) Produced by Paulien van de Wetering. Executive producer, Jean Marc van Sambeek. Directed by Roel van Dalen.

Crew: Camera (color), Mark Bakker; editor, Elja de Lange; music, Ernst Reijseger. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (Dutch Perspective), Jan. 31, 2001. Original title: Ajax -- Daar hoorden zij engelen zingen. Running time: 92 MIN.

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