The Referees (Les Arbitres)

"Very Good"

The Referees (Les Arbitres) Review


This fly-on-the-wall doc takes an unusual look at the biggest sport on earth as it follows top referees through the UEFA Euro 2008 championship. The approach is extremely low-key, with no narration or on-screen captions, and the result is a distinctly new look at the game.

Without any real narrative, the film takes the referees' point of view at a series of big matches, as we see them in action and hear the chatter on their radio channel. We follow well-known refs including Webb from England, Rosetti from Italy and Frojdfeldt from Sweden before, during and after the matches, witnessing the interaction behind the scenes as they support or sometimes second-guess each others' decisions. The film quietly traces the championship using a variety of languages as the refs interact with players and officials, and we also see Webb's and Rosetti's family members back home as they on their referee stars.

This unfussy film is cleanly assembled from sharp footage that cleverly catches each aspect of a referee's job. We see the refs deal with pre-match jitters in a variety of ways, including intense physical workouts. And afterwards, we follow them into a series of debriefings. It's clearly a high-pressure job, drawing strong abuse from everyone on and off the pitch, including death threats from disgruntled fans (Webb is the subject of national rage from Poland).

Clearly a very thick skin is required to be a referee at this level of sport, and these men have a confidence that makes them fascinating characters for a documentary. So does their top-athlete level of fitness, and several of them have movie-star looks. They're such strong figures that we are gripped by the way they talk to each other in the locker-room and, especially, to players on the pitch.

Still, there's not much in the way of analysis here. What makes the film so watchable is the way it takes us into this secret world so we can see how referees, managers, officials and even players get ready for the matches, deal with the politics of sport, and revisit matches on tape to refine their role.

In other words, it's essential viewing for football fans.



Facts and Figures

Genre: Documentaries

Production compaines: Entre Chien et Loup

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Yves Hinant, Eric Cardot, Delphine Lehericey

Producer: Thibaut Potdevin

Starring: Howard Webb as Himself, Manuel Mejuto González as Himself, Roberto Rosetti as Himself, Michel Platini as Himself, Peter Fröjdfeldt as Himself, Massimo Busacca as Himself

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