New to DVD and VOD today, Friday, July 22: SONS OF BEN
Jeffrey C Bell’s chronicle of the ardent fans of a nonexistent sports team debuted at the Tokyo Intl Football Film Festival last year. The doc screened at several other sports fests, including Thinking Football, Off-Side, Kicking + Screening, Berlin’s Fussballfilmfestival, and CineFoot, as well as the Chesapeake film fest. It now comes to DVD and to VOD platforms including iTines, Amazon, and Google Play.
After a previous national soccer league failed, Major League Soccer was formed as a condition of the US’s hosting of the 1994 World Cup, with ten initial teams beginning in 1996. A Philadelphia-based team was not among them, which rankled the city’s passionate soccer fans. Bell’s film reveals the unorthodox steps they took to remedy that situation, as the titular supporters’ club was formed – for a team that did not yet exist. Named after Ben Franklin, and chosen for the appropriate acronym formed, the Sons of Ben began as a desperate, grassroots effort to demonstrate the fanbase for a division one professional soccer team to come to Philadelphia. Founders and early converts detail their promotional activity and unexpected success in paving the way for the Philadelphia Union to join the ranks of MLS. What seems initially likely to become a hopelessly padded, insider-focused talking heads fest ends up changing course to include the intriguing wrinkles of a plan for economic revitalization of the forgotten, largely African-American town of Chester PA as the host of the soccer stadium, and the eleventh-hour arrival of the Great Recession, which threatens to derail all plans. These elements help broaden the film’s appeal into an underdog story that should resonate beyond a small subset of sports fans.