Black and White Stripes: The Juventus Story » RMHealey


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Black and White Stripes: The Juventus Story 

Mild coarse language


Director: Marco La Villa and Mauro La Villa
Starring: Gianni Agnelli, Umberto Agnelli, Andrea Agnelli, John Elkann, and team members and other family members playing themselves
Distributor: Eastern Canal
Runtime: 108 mins. Reviewed in Jul 2017
 
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This American documentary tells the story of the association of Italy’s Agnelli family with the Italian soccer team, Juventus F.C. which is based in Turin. Juventus is owned by the Agnelli family and the film documents the journey of the team from success, threatened extinction, to recovery and onto soccer glory again. The team went down in sport history for their courage, prowess, and passion for the game, and especially for its striving to get back on top once more. The title reflects the team’s football guernseys which are black and white stripes, and the film is narrated by F. Murray Abraham, who won an Academy Award as Antonio Salieri in the film, “Amadeus” (1984).

Juventus is Italy’s best known soccer club, and the association of Juventus F.C. with the Agnelli family has become a legend. The Agnelli family has supported some of the best soccer players the world has seen, and survived multiple family tragedies at the time of its association with the team. The family has supported the Juventus team for 32 Italian championships; it has owned Juventus for close to a century; and it has consistently kept the loyalty of millions of Italy’s soccer fans.

The documentary dramatically tells the story behind the team’s rise, its fall from fame, and its climb backup. The film records what happened throughout a period of “extreme challenges and tragedy”. Scandal pursued Juventus when it became embroiled in a match-fixing episode that resulted in the team being stripped of two titles and down-graded to a lower division; and tragedy struck the family in the death by cancer of Fiat patriarch, “Gianni” Agnelli, who took over Juventus in 1923; the stampede death of Juventus fans; and the 2000 suicide of Edoardo Agnelli, Gianni’s only son.

The directors of the movie are the La Villa brothers, Marco and Mauro. They are connected to the team through their father, who was a passionate supporter of Juventus. John Elkann appears in the documentary. He is a cousin of Andrea Agnelli who is the current Chair of Juventus, and is Chair of the investment company that controls Juventus; he is also Chair of Fiat Chrysler. Italy’s ex-PM, Silvio Berlusconi, owned the team, AC. Milan, which was a strong competitor of Juventus, before he sold his team to the Chinese. Politics, pursuit of wealth, power, and influence, a fierce determination to win, and passion for Soccer lie firmly at the movie’s heart in very many ways.

Approximately a quarter of the film shows archival footage of the football team, both on and off the football field. It contains rare and detailed sporting footage, and includes some marvellous action shots of players like Michel Platini and Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus’ legendary goalkeeper, demonstrating their extraordinary skills on the soccer field. The major focus of the documentary, however, is the Agnelli family which gave passion to the Juventus team, and was the primary motivational source responsible for what the team was able to achieve.

The film itself conveys strong, almost total, commitment to the sport of soccer, and it provides a dramatic picture of the team’s association with its devoted owners. The rhythm of soccer well-played is captured very effectively in the documentary by excellent photography, and by very fluid editing that frequently shows the skills of the players in slow-motion. Throughout, the viewer is always kept informed about the life events, good and bad, that surrounded the Agnelli family and its links to Juventus and Fiat.

This documentary intelligently reinforces appreciation of how sport and drama are often intertwined. Although the movie is likely to appeal most to devotees of good soccer, it shows dramatically and excitedly how emotions, business wealth and acumen, and politics often go hand in hand to shape sport history. For Italian soccer-followers, the documentary is a special must-see.

Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting



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