Two days after Italy defeated England on penalties in the Euro 2020 soccer championship final, followed by England fans heaping racist online abuse on Black players from the team, the topic continues to reverberate at the Cannes Film Festival.
Cannes virtually shut down on Sunday evening while the final was on, with even Spike Lee getting in on the action at the Kering Women in Motion dinner. Lee’s compatriot, documentary filmmaker Ezra Edelman, Oscar winner for “O.J.: Made in America,” was also among those following the game.
Edelman, renowned for his sports-themed documentaries, is in Cannes as the documentary award jury president. Some of the people Edelman was with on Sunday almost scoffed at the idea that he wanted to go and watch a soccer game during the festival, the filmmaker said at a panel during the Cannes Doc Day on Tuesday.
“Some people were confused why I cared about a game between England and Italy, since I’m American,” said Edelman. “But the fact is, in the end, what I care about is the notion that there was a team that has historically been dominated by white players, and this happens to be the first year where they have a lot of Black players.”
The current England squad has several Black players. “This idea, especially in the last decade, where the cause of racism and soccer has been greater and greater, that you have a team that comes from sort of, you know, a country where historically these colonizers who are now full of Black players,” said Edelman. “And that for me [was] the idea – of them, finally, potentially trying to exorcise demons in the country to bring this prize home and do it on the backs of some of these Black players – what sport can do as far as potentially changing culture.”
“I got excited by the notion of some of these players really helping to do that,” added Edelman. “And in the end, what happened was the opposite. You have these three players of color who missed penalties. And, in this most dramatic and awful fashion, what happened is they were showered with racist abuse online the next day.”
Edelman feels that if England had won, people’s minds could have been changed.
Edelman was in conversation with Louverture Films’ Joslyn Barnes, the Oscar-nominated producer of “Hale County This Morning, This Evening” and “Strong Island,” which won a Primetime Emmy.