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Norway’s ‘Home Ground’ Bows in Berlinale Series

The contemporary soccer-drama mixes themes of sexism, single parenthood and workplace hostility based out of Norway's most scenic stadium

In town for the Berlin Film Festival, Norwegian prod-co Motlys world premiered their Norwegian soccer drama “Home Ground,” on Tuesday Feb. 20. A day later, Norwegian broadcaster NRK announced they had recommissioned the series for a second season.

Originally produced by Motlys for NRK, and set to premiere in Norway on March 4, DR is handling sales.

The fictional series follows Norway’s first female coach of a male premier league team, and the hurdles she faces along the way, not only as a coach, but as a single mother and newcomer in an insular, soccer-mad community.

Facing the same hurdles any series about sport must, “Home Ground” had to walk a fine line when casting its team. “For most of the cast we looked specifically for actors with experience playing football, enough so that they would be able to pull off the stunt work we would need for the footballing sequences,” said series creator and writer Johan Fasting.

The one exception to this policy was assistant player-coach Michael Ellingsen, played by former professional soccer player John Carew, who enjoyed a rich career playing for many of Europe’s biggest clubs and competing in the sport’s most prestigious competitions.

“He was a perfect fit for this role,” explained Fasting, “Having lived a similar life to the character allowed him to draw on experiences of his own to find an emotional truth to the character while at the same time bringing an invaluable authenticity to both the attitude in the locker room and stunt work on the pitch.”

The challenges didn’t end with casting though. The team behind “Home Ground” want the series to apply to a broad audience, whether they enjoy soccer or not.

“I’m not interested in football at all, so for me it was crucial that this show had to be about something beyond football,” said producer Vilje Kathrine Hagen. “For me this show is about Helena and her journey into a world where only men is allowed. Football is a perfect arena to tell that story.”

According to Fastings, the series isn’t just something non-soccer fans can enjoy, but it was created with them in mind. He compared the series to hospital or courtroom dramas, pointing out that a viewer doesn’t need to know anything about medicine or law to enjoy those, so they needn’t know anything about soccer to enjoy this series.

But soccer fans need not fear; there will be plenty of in-game action as well.

“The first three episodes are set during pre-season, but from then on there are games in almost every episode,” said Fastings, “One episode takes place in real time over the course of a 45-minute second half. Another is set during a penalty shootout in the Cup.”

With a second season already ordered for the show, and with positive responses from: “The century long history of football is a gift to any writer. I could write five hundred episodes and only just scratch the surface of compelling stories.”

 

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