Equal parts sociology and sport, “Home Game” is an emotional, razzle-dazzle docu that uses the incredible history of hockey in Berlin to reveal the profoundly deep rift in the populace that exists to this day, 10 years after the fall of the Wall. Fascinating pic can travel well beyond the sports genre and is prepped for the hat trick of fest demand, theatrical scores and ancillary victory.
Snappy and consistently humorous, pic is loosely structured around the most recent winning season (following years of struggle) of East Berlin ice hockey club Dynamo, renamed Die Eisbaren (The Polar Bears) in the wake of German reunification. The sole surviving East German team, the Bears play to a fervent fan base of blue-collar “Ossies,” or Easterners, who swaddle themselves in team colors, howl custom lyrics to popular songs and flaunt the trappings of the now-defunct German Democratic Republic from the Wellblechpalast sports hall deep in the Hohenschonhausen district of Berlin.
It doesn’t take a psych degree to figure out that these exuberant fans are clutching at a cherished constant in a decade of momentous change. Pic does a remarkable job of presenting them as appealingly scruffy underdogs via shrewd choices of interview subjects among fans, staff and players (including former National Hockey League stars Mike Bullard and Brian Bellows). That the few “Wessies,” or Westerners, interviewed seem terrified to travel to the other side of their city for games featuring their team, the Capitals, only adds to the charisma of the rowdy Eisbaren legend and the complex relationship between the two halves of the citizenry.
Tech credits are stupendous, with Michael Hammon’s strikingly intuitive on-ice images massaged by a thunderous, complex Dolby SR mix. Incredibly, vet docu helmer Pepe Danquart had never been to a hockey game before making the film , yet the choreography of bodies and space on frozen pond and the fetishizing of the game’s apparatus and complex pre-game rituals will satisfy both sports fan and aesthete, offering an astonishingly poetic look at a fast-paced and often violent sport. Onscreen ID of numerous interviewees would be tremendously helpful for the foreign viewer.