Review: ‘The Game of Their Lives’

A lively account of a unique moment in sports history, "The Game of Their Lives" flashes back to 1966, when North Korea's soccer team came close to winning the World Cup tournament held in Britain. Combination of their latter-day reminiscences, archival footage and a still-exciting underdog saga will make docu an attractive broadcast item.

A lively account of a unique moment in sports history, “The Game of Their Lives” flashes back to Cold War annum1966, when North Korea’s soccer team came shockingly close to winning the eighth World Cup tournament held in Britain. Incident may be little remembered elsewhere, but it’s still a source of pride in players’ home country. Combination of their latter-day reminiscences, ample archival footage and a still-exciting underdog saga will make docu an attractive broadcast item, particularly where soccer is the game of choice.

The Chollima Football Team was under-estimated from the start, when they bested Aussies to win competition’s single designated slot for non-Euro, Latin and North American teams. Very small (average height 5′ 5″) but uncommonly quick and in-tune as a unit, the “Commies” overcame cool initial curiosity to become crowd favorites. They earned sympathy by surviving the Soviet team’s physical bullying, then stunned all by besting highly regarded Chilean and Italian lineups. Portugal ended their ride in quarter-finals, but whole experience was nonetheless an extraordinary coup for players and for North Korea as a nation. Director-producer Daniel Gordon’s package is smartly assembled.

The Game of Their Lives

U.K.

Production

A VeryMuchSo production in association with Passion Pictures for BBC. Produced by Daniel Gordon. Executive producer, John Battsek. Directed by Daniel Gordon.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, video), Nick Bennett, Daryl Kibblewhite; editor, Justine Wright; music, Illustrious. Reviewed on vidcassette, San Francisco, March 18, 2003. (In San Francisco Asian-American Film Fesitval.) Running time: 80 MIN.
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