Sunday, October 23, 2022

A Game of Three Halves, on

The World Cup should have already happened this year, but because FIFA is hopelessly corrupt, they chose the inferno-like Qatar to host this year, during the still scalding hot month of December. To tide football fans over, Matthew Bate & Case Jernigan explore the social significance of the game and the super-fandom it inspires in their animated five-mini-episode A Game of Three Halves, which premieres Wednesday on

It is surprising how timely this mini-mini-series turns out to be. The second (and best) episode, addresses the Iranian regime policies prohibiting women fans from attending football matches, at a time when Iranians are taking to the streets to protest the suspicious death of Masha Amini. The fourth episode chronicles the cave rescue of the Thai school children’s Wild Boars FC soccer team and how the story captured the attention of the football world, during the 2018 World Cup, a story now familiar from a recent crush of films and documentaries.

Each episode is a mere five minutes in length, give or take, but they are all quite funny and rather perceptive. Journalist Max Rushden amusingly explains the trials and occasional triumphs of amateur weekend football warriors in the opening “Where the F%*ck is Hamish?,” titled in honor of the annoyingly irresponsible player every team has, who always gets away with his flakiness, because he is so good.

“Sara,” written by a real Iranian fan, under the eponymous pseudonym, is the best of the bunch. It forthrightly addresses the misogyny and inconsistency of the regime’s policies, but in a surprisingly light-hearted way that makes it a good companion piece to Jafar Panahi’s

Jonathan Wilson’s offers some rather clever observations on the neurotic nature of goalies in “Keepers.” It turns out both Nabokov and Camus played in goal, which definitely reinforces his point.

Joel Colby’s “All Hail the Wild Boars” is the shortest of the dozens of recent releases chronicling the Thai cave rescue. Its brevity is part of its charm, but it also has a fresh perspective.

Arguably, “Zidane Headbutt” is the weakest of the five, entirely drawn from YouTube comments regarding the infamous 2006 World Cup incident. It might remind some viewers why they try to avoid online snark, but it sort of represents a return to the sort of ironic “found sources” that Bate explored in his terrific documentary
Shut Up Little Man.

Three Halves, co-director Jernigan’s collage-like style of animation is lively and well suited to the cultural issues of football raised by the five episodes. It might even give viewers who are not football fans a new appreciation for the game, at least until the lethal Qatar World Cup (which has already led to the unreported deaths of a great many migrant workers) casts a new pall over the sport. Recommended for its insight and sportsmanship, A Game of Three Halves starts streaming Wednesday (10/26) on