Fisher Stevens: Beckham

I could not leave it, the four part series on David Beckham, a superstar in football history, a businessman, one part of a celebrity couple, married to Victoria, one of the Spice Girls, nicknamed Posh Spice. It’s a well made, good, constantly entertaining story that Netflix presents with many layers going from the childhood of the boy, whose father pushed him forward, totally engaged with Manchester United, where David started his amazing career in 1991 (born1975) picked by (now Sir) Alex Ferguson, a father figure, who meant everything for him until the relationship broke in 2003 and he went to Real Madrid for four years.

David Beckham became an icon, he was good looking and was in the media for good and worse. He knew (knows) how to dress and change haircut, he and Victoria loved to be on the front pages until their children were born and the paparazzis followed them 24/7.

The film is built on interviews with the couple and when it comes to football, with – for a football idiot like me – lovely meetings with legends I have seen again and again, here they are pensioners looking back: Gary Neville, the right back, who was his true companion in ManU and on the national team of England, the charismatic Eric Cantona, Paul Scholes the midfielder by many characterised as the most underrated player of the team ever, Rio Ferdinand the defender who played more than a decade for ManU – and when he came to Madrid: lovely magnificent Brazilian Ronaldo, Luis Figo the traitor says the writer of this text, who is a Barca fan, fantastic Brazilian Roberto Carlos with whom Beckham had to compete on who to take the free kicks, one of the specialities of Beckham, who was also fantastic with corners and long shifts from the right side of the pitch to the left.

Football-wise there are at least two highlights that are described through archive from the matches and interviews/ comments from Beckham, who remembers from a sofa in his house in the English countryside: The World Cup match in 1998 between England and Argentina, where he got the red card (by Danish referee Kim Milton) for kicking down Diego Simeone, who had got him down with a tough tackle. The consequence of that (England lost the match) was that Beckham was hated for years – death threats, a bullet in an envelope, a loop outside a pub… In the series he says that this event has haunted him since then. Was a red card too much, Simeone is asked in the series. Yes he says, I did a good filming, with a smile, no regrets from the tough player, now coach for Atletico Madrid. The year after, in 1999, ManU won the treble with the 2-1 against Bayern Munich as a match that will never be forgotten. I was in a German airport waiting for a connecting plane, when the Germans was in the lead but Sheringham equalled and in the extended time Ole Gunnar Solskjær made the goal to 2-1. Was it within 10 minutes. In the film a wonderful receptionist of ManU tells how she could not stand to watch, leaving the sitting room to make coffee. Me in the airport did not dare to express my joy to see Oliver Kahn and company be beaten!

There are many side-characters in the series and people, who are there due to archive like Glen Hoddle, the fantastic technical West Ham player who became the national coach and put Beckham on the bench… Beckham who had always admired Hoddle as I did, and of course you almost get tears in your eyes when the series presents a couple of clips of the ManU player of all times, Bobby Charlton. Hoddle did not want to be in the series. Long sequences with Mum and Dad, nice they are, they talk with love about their David and about their disagreements – Mum thinks that Dad pushed David to much.

Beckham goes after Madrid to play in the US, his wife is happy, finds a house and schools for the kids, but the footballer gets a message from the then England coach, Italian Fabio Capello, who gives him the advice to return to Europe to play for AC Milan, to be fit for the National team again. He obeys. And gets a couple of matches to end with 115 for England.

I know that this text is focused on football leaving the tabloid stuff to the side – but it has to be said that the series deals massively with the constant hysterical British media pressure on the couple and Victoria Beckham makes an honest contribution to that story, on how she reacted when her husband followed his instinct and ambition to play more, win more, and go for a photo shoot with Beyoncé and Penelope Lopez the same day, where she was about to give birth to one more child! Now the series shows the still beautiful man in his late forties going to his beehives, play ball with one of the three boys, clean the kitchen, cook, show his wardrobe. A very well organized man. And a very well organized series that avoids any conflictual themes, sympathy all over. Fair enough. A must, at least for football lovers.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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