Homeless FC by James Leong & Lynn Lee

Ah Hung never knew that joining a group of equally foul-mouthed, debt-ridden, poverty-stricken men in a regular practice of soccer could take him to South Africa. Set against the grimy backdrop of government housing in Hong Kong, several homeless men were rounded up by counsellor Wai Tung to form a soccer team. After rounds of selection and elimination based on moral conduct and cooperativeness, a final team was formed. The team set out to practise hard for the Homeless World Cup to be held in sunny South Africa. Through the team, he found friends in a Sammo-Hung look-alike Chor Pat, a young, handsome and introspective Ah Lung, a leader-like bespectacled David and many more.Many were homeless because they chose to walk out of their homes. They each seemed to let someone down in their family. So in fact, each had a need to normalise their social feelings and found an outlet in the soccer team. Between joining the team and being in South Africa was the span of one bittersweet year. Singaporean filmmakers James Leong and Lynn Lee literally went on `stand-by' mode beside these characters to capture them at their most naked (oops!), well, emotionally naked moments. Homeless FC is an underrated documentary in this year's SIFF. I don't blame the general festival tastes - watching losers playing lousy soccer is about as draining as you would feel climbing up 120 steps to Sinema Old School! But the movie was sitting there in the DVD player ready to exorcise my preconceptions about the film. And by the time, the credits rolled, I told myself, this was one straight-as-hell local movie that made me cry!
Like most people in the audience, I marvelled at the nakedness of the drama that unfolded between the players and their family members. You wondered if James who shot this wore an invisible suit. And the clarity of the sound! Even when they were caught arguing in a distance or at a sudden wee hour of the morning. But for me, the most intriguing feat of all was the very richly-layered and spirited storytelling, infused with so much humour and irony. And it is not even all sardonic humour but very often, hearty earnest laughs!

If you were a filmmaker, having an equally passionate `partner in crime' is a highly enviable marriage made in heaven. And this was another of their showpieces that demonstrate how one complements the other. We are not sure between James and Lynn, who bestowed the film with that unmistakable gregariousness of style and who offered the wise and discerning introspective takes. The film really captured so many right moments at the right time and for sure, it takes 2 to do this.

Panorama Crosstalk #3

After watching Homeless FC, Stefan Shih and Jeremy Sing became 2 shrieky boys.

Stefan (S) : I received an SMS from you right after the screening of Homeless FC, and you declared it a gem... how so?
Jeremy (J) : Homeless FC's premise struck me as dull, unimaginative, `done-before'. I mean soccer has been done till death. Even worse now, watch a bunch of losers (homeless people in HK) play soccer? Somemore, you can't really expect good soccer, so the soccer fans will not come. (dramatic pause) But but but but but............ I was so blown away!!!
S : Haha... yes, I actually half expected it to be focused on football, football and more football! But I was pleasantly surprised that it was a lot more than that, a lot more!
J : I thought of a tag for this film, will share later.
S : Ok! So far, if there's another movie in SIFF that I would want to watch again, this would be it! J : Me too!
S : Let me guess who your favourite subject is... Chor Pat?
J : Of course! this Sammo Hung look-alike captured my heart. But I also liked the shortie with a his wife Coco and daughter. S : Yes! the daughter is incredibly adorable!
J : I always want to cry when I see him. And the daughter can cry buckets under camera some more! (A second's reflection) You know this film had such an impact on us, I think we have so far been just happily shooting here and there!
S : I guess that's because there are many plus points about it.

J : Okay la, lets list them right now!
S : And I seriously thought that they could go all the way, especially with their shocking first goal of the tournament!
J : Eh Hello! Thought we supposed to list!
S : Sorry overshooting again! Ok you list yours first.
J : The drama - dunno how the director got them to still behave as if there was no camera. And then can shoot so near until you see their pores and acne scars and they can still be themselves.
S : (still randomly shooting...) I like the part where one of them made fun of the Chinese and English national anthems. And Chinese President Hu too!
J : I had an brainwave about this anthem thing. I felt the docu was given some form of structure and coherence through this anthem thing. I mean when they were deplorable and directionless, they bastardised the China Anthem to `Your mother slept with me'. Then in a twist of fate, they stood at attention to the proper anthem in South Africa just before their match. (pause) That part I cannot control, I cried.
S : Yeah, and sang out loud with gusto too!
By now, both Jeremy and Stefan have started to interrupt each other's sentences.
J : Of course I lurved the camera work! Simply,..
S : I loved the strong human drama! And I thought almost everyone in the main "cast" were given equal screen time opportun...
J : Except Chor Pat, his belly stole the show.
S : Hahaha, yes that jersey scene just cracked me up!
J : I know! I know! (pause) Oh yeah, and he snored so loudly in his sleep in South Africa!
S : Did you know he was here in Singapore?
J : Yes, I went to their website this afternoon ... http://lianain.blogspot.com/

S : Gotta check out James and Lynn's blog, they were hosting him! (pause) Oh yeah, I also mentioned about the kickass fan made trailer. Send to you now..... this is a must watch, for fans and non-fans alike... my friend bought a ticket for the screening based on this alone! (pause) wait ah, i want to verify it... heh.... ok, here goes.... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uh4Xt3a-Pyc
(pause) U watch liao, goosebumps will come out. Guaranteed!
J : Watching now......

5 mins later.

J : Finish watching , no goosebumps leh.
S : ???
J : Think must be the fast rock music.
S : Mmm...
J : But I liked the spirit la.
: Yeah, but don't forget, their spirit was constantly down (Jeremy is confused at this point because he was referring to the spirit of the trailer not the team), and I thought their counsellor Wai Tung had a hard time in trying to cajole, persuade and convince them every step of the way, so kudos to him too.
J : Anyway, you know, I felt so moved in the final scenes in South Africa I could sing`Stand Up For Hong Kong!' S : Lol. (pause) But watching the games, was quite heartwrenching at times.
J : Did you nearly cry at any one time?
: I think this is not gonna be a spoiler haha... but it's when they won their first game. (beat) It's like... finally!
J : Mmm.
S : If you can meet up with one of the team members, who would it be and why?
J : For me, it would be Ah Lung- he is the young man right?

S : Yes. The captain of the team.
J : He opens the film and ends the film.
S : Yours is the same as mine, would like to meet with him too... thought he had a lot more to tell.
J : He has a hidden story not really told in full in this film and that last shot of his mum...... simply haunting. And the first time I such a pretty tombstone photo.
S : Ya!
J : She must have been hot!
S : Ah Lung's attitude is one of the best amongst the team, we seldom hear him put others down rite. That's why he is captain.
J : True true, it can't be Chor Pat, Anthem King, Coco's shortie or Mr HK$35-per-month.
S : Haha! A lot of memorable characters in Homeless FC, which I felt helped to make it a winner.
J : I sang my praises to Nicholas Chee of Sinema Old School right after the show and his reply was.... too bad it is a HK team in subject.
S : I spoke to Sherman Ong about the show and he made the same comment about how it's a pity it is set in HK. (Pondering) So what do you think it would be interesting in SG's context?
J : Mmm.... let's see. Homeless line dancers? But wait, do we have homeless people in Singapore? (in serious thought)
S : Haha! Anyway, I believe James and Lynn are working on something with a local flavour soon.
J : They better. I was crying when the China national anthem was played. See how dangerous this film is.

Check out : the following links:
www.homelessfcmovie.com the official movie website
http://lianain.blogspot.com/ for inside scoops on the Chor Pat, Ah Hung, Ah Lung and David
http://anutshellreview.blogspot.com/ for an interview with James and Lynn by Stefan.

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