BOURG MADAME, France – Forging a partnership with Mediapro, one of Spain’s most prominent producers of international art house auteurs, Film Factory has acquired world sales rights outside Spain to “Messi,” a docu portrait of one of soccer’s all-time greats.
Completed, and shown in June at a press screening in Rio, “Messi” will world premiere at Venice Days, where it has been selected as the closing film of the section. Film Factory will also screen it at the Toronto Festival.
“Messi” marks the first venture into docu filmmaking of Spain’s Alex de Iglesia, helmer of titles – 1995’s seminal “The Day of the Beast” and a string of other hits – “Common Wealth,” “Ferpect Crime,” most recently 2013’s “Witching & Bitching” – which yoke a Spanish comedy tradition and genre tropes and American pacing and VFX and graphic novel inspiration.
Written by Jorge Valdano, a former Argentine soccer player, sports journalist and manager and sports director of Real Madrid’s soccer-club, “Messi” ask whether the soccer player’s genius is nature or nurture.
De La Iglesia’s answer is both: One theme of the film is the sacrifice and determination necessary to become the first soccer player in history to win four FIFA Golden Balls, as well as the World Cup Golden Ball.
Two examples: As a child, Messi was labeled “The Flee” for his diminutive size that many thought ruled him out of major league soccer. Messi injected himself to treat growth-hormone deficiency; his family stayed with him for three months in a Barcelona hotel, while they attempted to get him a trial at the soccer club. Perseverance paid off: At the age of 24 – a decade before many soccer players retire, Messi became Barcelona’s all-time top scorer.
Lensing in Buenos Aires, Rosario and Barcelona, De La Iglesia has interviewed Argentine soccer solons such as Cesar Luis Menotti, the coach of its winning 1978 World Cup team, Alejandro Sabella, the coach of Argentina’s World Cup side; Barcelona team-mates Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano; and Johan Cruyff, the first originator of the multi-passing, position changing, pressure-up-field game which Barcelona, led on field by Messi, developed and used under Pep Guardiola’s management to win the Champions League, Liga, Copa del Rey, Spain Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup, all in 2009.
But the shoot also took in recreated scenes from Messi’s childhood and youth in his native city of Rosario, his primary school and the club where he played his first official soccer match, plus first-hand testimony of his friends, family, and primary school teachers. Second half of the film charts Messi’s rise to greatness at Barcelona.
“As a soccer lover, in my humble opinion, Messi is the best footballer in the world. I know this film will surprise buyers all over the world and will help them get to know and understand the secrets of this world-renowned star,” said Film Factory’s Vicente Canales.
He added: “It’s a luxury and a privilege to be able to work with Mediapro, a great production company with international prestige and vision.”
“We are proud of have joined in the film the talents of both Alex de la Iglesia and Leo Messi,” said Javier Mendez, head of Mediapro’s content division. “We are also very happy of starting this new venture with Vicente Canales and his team at Film Factory,” he added.
Spain’s biggest independent production, rights-holding and services conglom, Mediapro produced Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” and “Midnight in Paris,” as well as Oliver Stone’s “Comandante,” Roman Polanski’s “Carnage,” Jean-Jacques Annaud’s “His Majesty Minor” and Isabel Coixet’s “The Secret Life of Words.”
Mediapro is post-producing “A Perfect Day,” acclaimed Spanish director Fernando Leon de Aranoa’s English-language feature debut, toplining Benicio del Toro, Tim Robbins, Olga Kurylenko and Melanie Thierry. A humor-laced conflict-zone drama-thriller, “Perfect Day” marks Mediapro’s third co-production project with Leon de Aranoa’s outfit Reposado, after “Princesses” and “Amador.”