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Jul 9, 2008

Vikash Dhorasoo: Substitute

The World Cup in 2006 captured the imagination of millions around the world. Goals galore, Zinedine Zidane's headbutt in the Final, Italy's triumph, and none of it made any difference to Vikash Dhorasoo.

Why? Because the France midfielder played only 16 minutes of the tournament and spent the rest of the time creating a film called 'Substitute' about his lacking of playing time.

Now, a word of warning. This is what is known as an 'art film', which essentially means unusual camera work, long sequences of bizarre shots set to some background music and not traditionally what you would expect to see at the cinema.

That said, the last art film I reviewed was one on Zidane himself, covering his movement during a Real Madrid game - A 21st Century Portrait. Given the nature of the filming, it was a tough one to decide upon, but in the end it left a good taste, if only because you could watch football for ninety minutes. Dhorasoo's is almost entirely the opposite.

Shaky camerawork and distant filming give the work a distinctly amateur feel. The fact that there are no interviews, no insight into the training camp or anything of any real substance in the film, only adds to the feeling of disappointment you get when watching it.

'It's not so bad if I don't play,' Vikash says at the start. 'I'm just glad to be here, others haven't played at all.'

Which begs the question, why make the film at all? To be fair, Dhorasoo went to the World Cup with the intention of making an undercover film, unsure of the subject matter. It turned out that coach Raymond Domenech gave him some interesting subject matter by 'burying' the midfielder in the squad, but it is still an odd choice for a filmmaker to consider devoting over an hour to.

Quite simply - nothing happens. Dhorasoo spends his time filming the inside of his hotel room and complaining to the film's director that he isn't getting a game over the phone. 'My World Cup is hotel rooms and poker games,' he says before watching his side make it through the group stages. And yes it is, but that is just not very interesting.

Also, what he fails to grasp is that the side are doing perfectly well without him. Zidane is the French heartbeat, Franck Ribery made his name as one of the stars of the future and, although they didn't breeze through, the side still made the final! His continual complaining make him seem like a spoilt child, unhappy at not getting his own way. As the old saying goes: 'There's no I in TEAM.'

However, the most interesting part of the film is when Dhorasoo realises that he's not going to get more playing time and gives up trying to hide his camera. Only then do we get some interesting shots of the players behind the scenes. Although despite his new found freedom, we are still left short of actually seeing any football.

But maybe that is the point. He didn't get to play any football, so we don't get to see any (barring a few grainy, long shots from the crowd). There's nothing from the final, no talk about the crushing defeat, the headbutt, or anything to do with the end of the tournament. All we are left with is a rather sheepish looking Dhorasoo waving to the crowd from a balcony back home, before he is filmed unpacking upon his return.

For a football fan, the film is hard to sit through. For Pascal Chimbonda, Jean Alain Boumsong and Gael Givet (all of whom got exactly zero minutes on the pitch, while Dhorasoo made two substitute appearances totalling 16 minutes), it must be even worse.


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