Four outstanding Spanish-language football films at Amnesty's Sidelines festival

Four outstanding Spanish language football films will feature at Amnesty International UK’s Sidelines film festival in London next month.

Sidelines takes place from 6 - 8 June, the weekend before the World Cup starts in Brazil, at Hackney Picturehouse, east London. It will be a weekend of thought-provoking films, including the UK premiere of Eric Cantona’s new documentary about Brazil Looking for Rio, lively Q&A's and panel discussions, all with a football and human rights theme.

While the footballing world gears up for the game’s most prestigious event, these four documentaries show football in a different light, away from the money, the glory and the glamour of the World Cup.

Informe Robinson Double Bill – The Children of the Habana and The Hour of Africa - Spain

Informe Robinson, the award winning Spanish monthly sports programme presented by former Liverpool and QPR striker Michael Robinson, brings two documentaries to Sidelines that explore the role of football in war and conflict.

The Children of the Habana

The 2013-2014 Premier League had more Spanish players than ever, but who were the first Spaniards to play professional football in England?

In the spring of 1937, with the Spanish Civil War raging all around them, a group of 4000 unaccompanied child refugees sailed from Bilbao, on a re-commissioned cruise liner called the Habana, to safety in England. They were told they would only be gone for three months, but many would never return to the country of their birth to live.

With little formal schooling available to them in England, and that which was disrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War two years later, the children – the boys at least – spent much of their time playing football.

It served them well. They didn’t know it at the time, but among the children on board the Habana were a handful who would go on to become to first Spaniards to sign for clubs in the English league – clubs such as Wolverhampton Wanderers, Coventry City, Southampton and Brentford – paving the way for the likes of Arteta, Silva, Torres and Enrique today.

The Hour of Africa

On the eve of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, The Hour of Africa takes us back to just before the last World Cup, in South Africa. Journalist John Carlin joins Michael Robinson to explore football under apartheid, and to follow its changing role in South African society since then. It’s now 20 years since the end of apartheid, and this film explores what having the World Cup meant for South Africa and South Africans in this young democracy.

Michael Robinson said:

“I’m thrilled that Informe Robinson is taking part in Amnesty International’s Sidelines football film festival. Both these documentaries show the important role that football played in three sad episodes of the 20th Century – the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War and the apartheid regime in South Africa. They are stories of conflict, but also stories of the extraordinary solidarity of ordinary people wanting a better future for themselves and their society.

“Documentary film can be a really powerful way to look at important and untold stories. As a former footballer, I’d say there are few lenses that offer as fascinating view of the world as sport.”

This screening will be followed by a Q&A with Informe Robinson reporter José Larraza and editor of football quarterly The Blizzard Jonathan Wilson.

The Railroad All-Stars - Guatemala

Chema Rodriguez’ The Railroad All-Stars is about a group of sex workers who live in a destitute neighbourhood of Guatemala City. Fed up with the abuse they get from customers, partners and the police, they form a football team - the Railroad All-Stars – hoping to draw attention to their plight. After weeks of training and their first game against a local secondary school team, the All-Stars are banned from future competitions because they are sex workers. This controversy, however, brings enormous media attention, precisely what the players had been hoping for.

Chema Rodriguez said:

“Shooting The Railroad All-Stars and everything that went with it was the most thrilling professional experience of my life. We shot it with love, with solidarity, wanting to enjoy ourselves and at the same time wanting change some things in a world full of injustices. Football changed their lives, and they changed ours.”

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Chema Rodriguez.

Goals for Girls: A Story of Women with Balls - Argentina

Goals for Girls: A Story of Women with Balls, tells the story of a group of young women from Buenos Aires’ notorious Villa 31 shantytown who set out to form their own football team. Their dream is to compete in the Homeless World Cup in Brazil, but first they have to take on disapproving parents, disrespectful peers and disinterested football authorities to win the right to play.

Director Ginger Gentile said:

“We are honoured that Goals for Girls is participating in Amnesty UK’s Sidelines Film Festival. Our film not only focuses on the challenges for women who want to play football in Argentina, where it is considered a male sport, but also the plight of girls living in a shantytown.

“But beyond that, it shows that another type of football is possible. Away from the money, the corruption, the slave-like selling of players, exist teams where football is used to teach about human rights and teamwork. It is a football where the players are motivated by passion, not money. And in Argentina, this football is played by women.”

This screening will be followed by a panel discussion with Goals for Girls director Ginger Gentile, assistant manager of the England women’s team Marianne Spacey, Sky News presenter Sarah-Jane Mee, Guardian sportswriter Anna Kessel, ex-Charlton Women’s manager Paul Mortimer.

Amnesty UK director Kate Allen said:

“We are delighted to be showing these four films at Sidelines. They are in turn moving, funny and shocking, and they all feature characters who demand our respect for their skill, tenacity and resilience against the odds. They show sport in a different light, which is what the Sidelines festival is all about.”

For the full programme please visit:


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