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The Referees (Les Arbitres) (3 stars)

Revealing study about the much-maligned professional whistle-blowers

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The Referees (Les Arbitres)

(15) 77min

Following on from Fire in Babylon and Senna, The Referees is another impressive sports-related documentary. Belgian filmmaker Yves Hinant and his co-directors Eric Cardot and Lehericey Delphine were given full access by UEFA to the referees and their assistants at the 2008 European Football Championship Finals in Austria and Switzerland. The resulting fly-on-the wall film is no corporate puff piece, but a deceptively revealing study, which is likely to challenge one’s preconceptions of these much-maligned individuals.

We witness the tension in the dressing rooms of the officials before kick-offs, and their mixture of relief and jubilation when a match passes without a controversial decision, which could lead to their removal from the competition. We listen to the frenzied communications between the miked-up officials during the actual games, and see their decisions retrospectively scrutinised by assessors in lengthy debriefing sessions. England’s Howard Webb becomes the recipient of a death threat from the Polish Prime Minister when he awards a late penalty against Poland, and his family back in England receives police protection. Eschewing any voice-over commentary or interviews, The Referees draws out the humanity and fallibility of its subjects. As Switzerland’s Massimo Bussaca admits to a Greek player, ‘I am not God. We also make mistakes.’

Selected release from Fri 5 Aug.

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