Oscar-winning filmmaker Taika Waititi discussed the creation of his outstanding new football film, “Next Goal Wins,” in an interview with The Footballco Business Podcast.
Taika Waititi revealed his challenges in making a football-themed movie, particularly in portraying the incredible true story of Thomas Rongen and American Samoa.
In the film, Waititi sheds light on Rongen’s tenure as the coach of a team that held the title of the worst national side globally when he took charge in 2011. Michael Fassbender plays the role of the Dutch-born coach, and the film, released in the U.S. last week, is set to hit UK cinemas on December 29.
During his conversation on The Footballco Business Podcast, Waititi delved into various aspects, including the portrayal of dynamic football scenes, his reflections on the Beautiful Game beyond Hollywood, and more.
“I’ve always tried to add humour to anything,” Watiti says. “I think if you’ve got like a deeper theme beneath everything, and this again is, the film really is about loss and grief and picking yourself back up and trying to look for happiness in your life. And all of my films really are about that. And this is no different.
“I think that as a Pacific Islander, being able to tell a Pacific Island story, (I have) a little bit more leeway and a bit more permission really to poke fun at ourselves. I think if it was someone, you know, if it was a Western filmmaker coming in and laughing at the worst team in the world and saying, ‘look at these losers’, it would feel a bit different and it might feel a little more offensive. And I think that because, you know, I’m from New Zealand and it’s Samoa and we share a lot culturally and we’re very similar people.
Taika Waititi was free to pick native actors for the Next Goal Wins
“We just decided to basically pull everyone in together. And it’s 99% Islanders in this film. There’s like two white characters. And that’s about it. And so just being able to do that, we had full control over how we were seen and how we got to portray ourselves.”
In addressing the challenges of making on-screen match action appear realistic, a common issue in previous football-focused films, Waititi shared that he sought the expertise of professionals to craft compelling and authentic scenes.
“It’s hard to make the game seem dynamic on film somehow,” he says. “I’ve seen a lot of films about football, and I thin just maybe back in the older times, there used to be those shots following a ball, and some feet hitting it and stuff. It just didn’t seem very fast or cool.
“We managed to get in some cameramen who usually film sports events, football photographers and football cameramen. And so they came in and we managed to use them for the big game at the end. And I like to think watching that game that it does feel exciting to me, even though it’s like, you know, they’re supposed to be not very good players. But the main thing is there’s a narrative in that game and we’re able to follow that, you know, it’s just to follow the sort of the back and forth between the teams.
“That was a really important thing just to get right, to make sure that you understood what was happening in the game. And also to make it fun. Like if you make it fun and have higher stakes and have moments where you’re like, ‘Oh my God, is it gonna go?’ But also, you know, some really stupid moments in there too.”