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  • David Parkinson

Parky At the Pictures (16/2/2024)

(Reviews of Navalny; Getting It Back: The Story of Cymande; Someone's Daughter, Someone's Son; and Una Squadra)


Alexei Navalny died in prison today. This review from April 2022 is reprinted unaltered in sadness as a mark of respect.

On 22 March 2022, while the rest of the world was distracted by the war in Ukraine, a Russian court sentenced Alexei Navalny to an additional nine years behind bars for fraud. The verdict was a foregone conclusion, as had been the case with the trial for probation violation in February 2021, which came a few weeks after Navalny had returned to Moscow following a period of recuperation in Germany, where had been treated for the effects of Novichok poisoning.

At various intervals throughout Canadian Daniel Roher's documentary, Navalny, one is left to wonder why on earth the leader of the Russia of the Future party flew home, when he must have known what would happen. The question is asked. But the answer doesn't really come in a profile that often makes compelling use of its remarkable access, while also affording its charismatic subject too many opportunities to be evasive.

He refuses, for example, to discuss in any detail his attendance at three of the Russian Marches held by far-right nationalists in the early 2010s. But, when he is frank, it's to devastating effect, such as when he recalls his father being sent to plant potatoes in the irradiated fields around Chernobyl to convince the people that there was nothing to fear after the disaster at the nuclear power plant. Navalny claims that he recognised that willingness to lie in Putin's eyes when he first saw him on television. Indeed, while he is served by imbeciles such as the senior official who kept changing the number of his oft-hacked `Moscow 1' password, Putin is anything but stupid, even when he struggles to find ways of avoiding uttering Navalny's name on camera.

Roher films Navalny at his Black Forest retreat, with his wife, Yulia, and their children, Dasha and Zakhar. He also interviews his chief of staff, Leonid Volkov, and Maria Pevchikh, who is the head of the investigative unit of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation. The latter is wary when Roher introduces her boss to Christo Grozev, a Bulgarian journalist with Bellingcat, the Netherlands-based open-source research group, as she can't be sure he isn't linked to Vladimir Putin. However, he turns out to be Navalny's new best friend, as his data analysis skills present him with evidence that not only allows him to identify those responsible for trying to murder him, but also provides the film with its extraordinary phone prank set-piece.

Between scenes of Navalny and Yulia feeding a donkey and miniature pony in a field near their safe house, Roher recalls how the Yale-educated lawyer became so successful at using his social media platforms to expose the corruption of the United Russia hierarchy that he was arrested on trumped-up charges of embezzlement in 2013.

Nevertheless, he ran to become Mayor of Moscow the same year and, in 2016 announced his candidacy to challenge Putin for the presidency in 2018. The Supreme Court disqualified him from running, but Navalny continued to attract subscribers to his YouTube and Tik Tok channels. Moreover, his campaigns sparked protests against an increasingly dictatorial Kremlin.

He recalls having green liquid thrown into his face outside his Moscow headquarters in April 2017 and being afraid that he would be scarred for life. While visiting Tomsk in August 2020, however, Navalny was poisoned with the Novichok nerve agent. The film includes phone footage of him howling on a plane to Moscow and it was only the prompt action of medical staff in Omsk that saved his life. However, doctors at the hospital tried to deny Yulia access to her husband and, while they almost certainly consulted the Kremlin about how to proceed, they allowed Navalny to be flown to Germany.

He grins ruefully into the camera, as he admits how wrong he had been in thinking that notoriety would bring him security. However, he has no hesitation in declaring that he will return to Russia as soon as he feels strong enough to resume his campaign against Putin and his cronies. While waiting, however, he not only agrees to collaborate with Roher (`I realise that he's filming it all for the movie he's gonna release if I get whacked.'), but he also consents to meeting with Grozev and hearing his findings.

This is where the documentary enters the realms of spy spoof, as Navalny relishes the chance to assume the identity of security officer Maxim Ustinov in order to speak in person to those involved in the FSB plot to assassinate him. The first couple of agents become suspicious the moment they hear his voice. But scientist Konstantin Kudryavstev hasn't been trained so thoroughly and Navalny is able to coax him into revealing that Novichok had been applied to his underpants in Tomsk and that he would have not have survived if they had not botched the amount required to kill him.

With Grozev and a shocked Pevchikh sitting either side of him, Navalny revels in drawing the incriminatory confession that includes the passage: `We did it just as planned, the way we rehearsed it many times. But in our profession, as you know, there are lots of unknowns and nuances.' The transcript is passed to CNN's Tim Liester and Fidelius Schmid from Der Spiegel so that they can release an exclusive on 14 December that accuses the Kremlin of being behind a murder plot that Navalny mocks because the Sergei Skripal case in Salisbury had made Novichok Putin's signature poison.

As news comes that Kudryavstev has disappeared, Navalny drives Dasha to the airport so she can return to college in the United States. However, he has also decided to fly back to Russia and the cameras join him on the plane on 17 January 2021 and record him being detained at passport control after the authorities had diverted the flight to Sheremetyevo because of the crowds that had gathered to greet him at Vnukovo Airport.

The footage of him putting on a brave face in court and returning to his cell at Pokrov Penal Colony No.2 is all the more chilling as a closing caption reminds us how close Navalny came to dying while on hunger strike. Yet is his incarceration doing more to topple Putin than denouncing him from exile? Clearly, the invasion of Ukraine smacks of a desperate attempt to rally a nation that was showing an increasing to doubt and protest. But, such is Putin's control over the media, that few Russians know the truth about the ignominious campaign and the lies being told about its underlying motives.

Having impressed with Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band (2019), 29 year-old Roher graduates to graver fare with assurance. He's not the most rigorous interviewer, but he elicits sufficient trust for Navalny to buy into his ideas and, thanks to editors Langdon Page and Maya Daisy Hawke, the Maxim Ustinov interlude is as entertaining as it is riveting. Roher also generously makes mention of Putin's Palace: History of the World's Biggest Bribe, a documentary that Navalny wrote, directed and narrated for his Anti-Corruption Foundation and sent live on YouTube on 19 January 2021.

Also worth seeking out is He Is Not For You Dimon (2017), in which Navalny accuses former president Dmitri Medvedev of corruption. He may claim to prefer Call of Duty to chess, but Navalny seems to be a canny strategist. Which brings us back to that seemingly colossal and

recklessly courageous miscalculation and why he made it.


Football features prominently on Tim MacKenzie-Smith's CV. So, the director of Keane & Vieira: Best of Enemies (2013), Rooney: The Man Behind the Goals (2015), and The Hand of God: 30 Years On (2016) may not seem a natural to chronicle the legacy of an under-appreciated funk band that emerged from London's Afro-Caribbean community in the 1970s. But he's made a fine job of Getting It Back: The Story of Cymande, which is bound to send viewers scurrying to supplement their record collections.

Jim James of My Morning Jacket sets the ball rolling by revealing how blown away he was when he discovered that the Fugees song, `The Score', contained a sample from `Dove' by Cymande. Others share his bafflement as to why the band isn't better known, as they have had a profound influence on various forms of music.

Hailing from different parts of the Caribbean, Patrick Patterson (guitar), Sam Kelly (drums), and Steve Scipio (bass) recall arriving in Britain in the 1950s and the lasting impact made by the shock of the new. Derek Gibbs (saxophone) remembers becoming accustomed to the cold and the fog because survival was paramount, especially in the fact of the racial bigotry that they quickly encountered. Kelly reveals that although his father was a baker in Jamaica, he wasn't allowed to touch dough in the UK. Others with professional qualifications and expertise experienced the same thing and any hopes the Windrush generation had of making good in the Mother Country were soon dashed.

Patterson and Scipio have been neighbours in Brixton all their lives and joke about breaking up a piano to get it through a narrow front door. They chose the name Cymande from the lyrics of a calypso about a dove and a pigeon fighting over a piece of pepper and added flautist Mike `Bami' Rose, drummer Kelly, saxophonist Gibbs, and conga player Pablo Gonsales. As they rehearsed together, they melded jazz, funk and Rasta rhythms and musician friends Root Jackson and Byron Lye-Fook delight in pointing out that they were all self-taught and played with a distinctive sense of ancestral spirituality.

With songs that addressed the prejudice at a time when the National Front was calling for repatriation, young people like Craig Charles and Kevin Le Gendre were glad to hear Black British musicians speaking directly to them. But, while they could gig, Cymande struggled to get a recording contract because labels were reluctant to back homegrown bands when they could import albums from the United States.

Producer Jim Schroeder recognised their potential, however, and suggested they play as live for the first album, Cymande (1972). Ray King and Joey Dee contributed vocals before Jimmy Lindsay joined the strength. Schroeder landed them a deal with Janus Records in the US and they hit so big with `The Message' that they were invited to tour. They supported Al Green to 40,000 crowds in sports stadiums and Jerry Butler at the fabled Apollo in Harlem (becoming the first British band to grace the stage in the process).

While in Chicago, Cymande recorded Second Time Round (1973) and revelled in living the dream. But no one wanted to know back in Britain and they failed to get any sort of media exposure. Looking back, they recognise this as racism, but they opted against trying to fight the power and broke up after releasing Promised Heights (1974).

In New York, Cymande chimed in with the likes of DJ Jazzy Jay, Kool DJ Red Alert, DJ Hollywood, and Nicky Siano, who were embracing the jamming, hip hop, and danceable funk scenes that were emerging in the mid-1970s. They all agrees that `Bra' is one of the sacred crates of hip hop, while `The Message' became a song of solidarity as the Black communities on either side of the Atlantic took to the streets to protest against social injustice and intimidatory policing. Yet it wasn't until the 1980s that the likes of Kiss FM's Norman Jay and Soul II Soul's Jazzie B started playing Cymande on British dance floors.

Meanwhile, Scipio and Bami had joined Jabula to do their bit for the anti-apartheid cause. Scipio and Patterson also became lawyers to fight cases on behalf of the Black community (it rather sums up the film that we learn no more than this). Bami followed a stint with Aswad by joining Paul Simon's Graceland tour before forming The Jazz Warriors with Courtney Pine. Since 1999, he's been a member of Jools Holland's Rhythm & Blues Orchestra. While he jokes about still needing to practice while searching for the perfect note, Kelly enthuses about the joy of still playing, as he lists collaborations with Tom Jones, Robert Plant, and Ben E. King.

The likes of DJ Maseo, Louie Vega, Masta Ace, and Prince Paul credit Cymande with changing their worldview and how `Bra' and `The Message' became key to tracks like De La Soul's `Change in Speak' and Masta Ace's `Me and the Biz'. In Manchester, Anderson and Carson Hinds join Kermit Leveridge in reminiscing about making the Ruthless Rap Assassins classic, `And It Wasn't a Dream'.

As Norman Jay points out, Cymande laid the foundations for so many musical styles and how sad it is that they weren't appreciated in their time. Gonsales also has regrets about the band breaking up, but shows he still has much to offer, as he plays keyboard in his home.

Between montages of mixtapes being passed on and phone/home-movie footage of young and old engaging with Cymande joints, we hear skateboarder Tommy Guerrero, producer Mark Ronson, curator Colleen `Cosmo' Murphy, rapper Loyale Carner, DJs Peanut Butter Wolf, Cut Chemist, and Deb Grant, Ozomatli's Wil-Dog Abers, and the Khruangbin trio of Mark Speer, Laura Lee, and Donald `DJ' Johnson all pay their dues. This groundswell prompted the original members to reform for a one-off gig in 2006. But the joy of playing together again led to more gigs, a first album in 41 years and a short tour of the US.

In France, they're joined by MC Solaar, who had covered `The Message' as `Bouge De La' in 1991. This was the starting point for French rap and he thanks the band backstage. Craig Charles has them on his Six Music show and they meet some of the samplers who kept their flame flickering. But age keeps trying to catch up and Gonzales admits that he sometimes has to fight to keep going. Events like a triumphant return to Brixton in 2018 help, however, and they haven't ruled out one last hit.

The documentary concludes with Gonzales leaving the stage at a festival and confiding to the camera that the people will always dictate what they listen to and all power to them. A fade-in caption then reports his death in 2020. It's a sad way to end, but the positivity generated by his bandmates and their music prevails.

How much better the tribute would have been, however, had we had been allowed to hear more music and see more footage of the reformed Cymande on stage, as this is where the joy lies. A few on-screen song titles (and not just for the hip hop cuts) might have been helpful for newcomers, too. As might a little more on the UK music scene in the early 1970s and why Cymande and other Black British combos were frozen out as pop went through its Glam phase. The socio-political aspect is capably covered, but there's an ominous silence when it comes to the role that the music industry and radio and television played in feting African American stars on labels like Tamla Motown and Epic and emerging reggae icons like Bob Marley while ignoring acts on their own doorstep.

Cymande's hip hop afterlife receives almost as much attention as the combo's roots or the evolution of its sound. While this may be pivotal in celebrating the band's enduring influence, only three Cymande tracks get mentioned by name in a film that gets bogged down during an interminable section in which American fans speak at length and in awed tones without actually saying anything original or insightful. No one learns anything from these preening votaries swooning about how such a track blew their minds. How did it do so and in what way(s) did it do it differently from what had come before? What is it about the Cymande sound that has kept it echoing down the decades?

But the most frustrating aspects of an otherwise important profile are Mackenzie-Smith's reluctance to nail the names of albums and the dates of significant events and his tendency to drown out the sublime music with the effusive claque of trendy acolytes bigging themselves up for discovering an unknown British band or wallowing in the vibe they feel whenever they listen in or seek to convert others. It's all very valid, but surely we should hear more of Cymande than their devotees?


It's safe to say that Lorna Tucker's life has changed over the last five years. Since making her documentary feature debut with Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist, she has also made Amá (both 2018), about the sterilisation of Native American women, and Call Me Kate (2023), a profile of four-time Oscar winner, Katharine Hepburn. This was Tucker's first collaboration with Colin Firth as narrator. But it's the second, Someone's Daughter, Someone's Son, that explains why her current situation is quite so remarkable.

Home movies show Tucker as a fun-loving seven year-old. But she wound up on the streets at 15 after running away from home and uses her street name, Leanne, to tell her tale. All sleeping rough in London, Darren, Emma, and Laura outline their experience and the domestic traumas that resulted in them becoming homeless. Hailing from Jamaica, Omar came to Britain after getting married, but he is now sleeping out in Birmingham and has noticed how the range of services available to homeless people has diminished in recent times. Drugs and alcohol have robbed Jamie from Glasgow of three of his five siblings and he admits to having been lucky to survive himself.

In North Shields, Earl relates how he has managed to reclaim his life after running away at 14. He is now an outreach worker for North East Homeless helping others fill in forms and make claims or simply serving them food and drinks at the community café, where he has noticed in an increase in the number of families needing assistance. But he struggles while recalling how he had got into crime as a kid and had left the North East to spare his family the embarrassment of him being a juvenile offender. He hitched to Weston-super-Mare, where the collapse of a relationship with the mother of his child led to him becoming addicted to heroin.

Since 1991, when he launched The Big Issue, John Bird has been urging the authorities to stop seeing the homeless as addicts who can't be trusted, let alone helped. He joked in his maiden House of Lords speech that he had been elevated to the chamber for `lying, cheating, and stealing'. His refusal to see people on the streets as victims has changed public perceptions. But his campaign still has a way to go and he reflects on how much opposition he faced from charities to back the notion of vendors earning their own money rather than turning to crime.

Tucker tells her own story along the way. She recalls making for London after having problems at home and finding herself with a group of friends in Soho. After waking in a doorway one morning, she met a Big Issue seller named Greg, who became her guardian angel. However, he wasn't always around and she avers that the hours between revellers going home and commuters arriving for work was dangerous for women on the streets. The constant threat of intimidation and assault forces homeless women to make themselves invisible.

Darren, Emma, and Laura describe the dangers of London hostels, while Jamie reflects on how support was withdrawn before he felt stable. All concur that the system isn't working and that more needs to be spent on sheltered accommodation and safe hostels. Earl conducts an interview with a man needing assistance and points out that a lot of people get hooked on drugs in hostels because the standard of care is insufficient.

Over home movie images of her out for a walk as a carefree child, Tucker remembers how she started using heroin because it felt like a warm blanket that helped her forget the ordeal she was going through. As Mark considers the mental health aspects of addiction and the transferable skills involved in funding a habit, Earl discloses how he sold the contents of his home in order to fund his growing craving.

Baron Bird travels to Barrow and Glasgow to meet people trying to take the next step after rehab. He agrees that quitting a habit demonstrates a tenacity and ingenuity that employers should be harnessing in order to allow people to channel the lessons of the past into building a future. He meets Jamie and hears from Doug about the Housing First initiative and reiterates the need to help people deal with their mental health issues to prevent them from becoming the indoor homeless.

Earl and Omar are both veteran vendors and they discuss the difference in treatment they receive as sellers rather than beggars. Each talks about a growing sense of self-worth and Earl gets emotional remembering his last shift in a red bib and being presented with his new uniform on his first day at the outreach centre. Mark stresses the importance of having mentors and hearing positivity on the road to recovery and rehabilitation.

But the depths can be terrifyingly low. As we see a young girl eating Hula Hoops off her fingers at her birthday tea, Tucker remembers falling in with dealers and street pimps and feeling so trapped by the need to maintain her numbing high that she jumped off Waterloo Bridge. Baron Bird shows her the Missing Persons column from The Big Issue in the week Tony Blair came to power in 1997 and she sees the picture her mother had submitted. Tucker explains how she had hit rock bottom and been fortunate to be rescued from the Thames by a passing boat. This image had helped the police identify her and return her to Watford and the chance to start afresh. Sobbing on Bird's shoulder, Tucker credits Greg for keeping her going and for watching over her as best as he could.

Tucker now turns to those who have worked with homeless charities in a bid to understand what is being done and what could be done better. At St Anne's Church in Soho, she interviews Francesca, the head of Research and Evaluation at Crisis; Pam, the CEO of The Connection at St. Martin's; and Charlie, the Policy Officer at Shelter. They discuss strategies to provide affordable housing and sustained support and remind government that cuts are false economies, as consequential costs will accrue further down the line. They believe homelessness is a problem that can be eradicated within a decade with concerted and consistent policies. Baroness Louise Casey, a former Deputy Director of Shelter and Rough Sleeping Tsar, admits that sometimes political will (as was the case with the Blair administration) isn't enough.

Tucker takes Earl back to Faringdon Station, where a reformed alcoholic from the City had bought him food and sat down beside him to talk. He regards this as the decisive turning point in his life. Such individual acts are dismayingly rare and Lígia, the CEO of Impact, points out that homelessness is a complex problem, with each person having a particular issue to address. But she lists the fiscal benefits to the nation of improving lives for the small percentage of the population who are just asking for a chance.

In closing, Tucker shares why she wanted to make this film and why she decided to participate. She hopes the knowledge that there is a light to aim for will help those currently in the situation she felt would never end. Captions reveal that Emma and Laura are still struggling to find a way forward, but Jamie is going to university and has started to DJ. Following the closure of North East Homeless (due to lack of funding), Earl works at the YMCA and writes and performs poetry. Darren has also started writing and hopes to settle into a normal life (`whatever that may be'), while Baron Bird continues to campaign for a Ministry of Poverty Prevention. We don't find out about Omar, but he gets to say goodbye on camera over the specially composed Bryan Adams song accompanying the closing credits.

It's hard not to be lost in admiration for Tucker, as she places herself in a position of considerable vulnerability in order to make points that the British people simply can't keep ignoring. Her courage is matched by those of the other speakers, although we hear less from Emma and Laura, Omar and Darren than we do from Jamie and Earl. His trials are equally humbling, however, and it's infuriating that such a worthwhile enterprise as North East Homeless closed as Saudi cash was sloshing into the coffers at Newcastle United.

A cheap shot, perhaps, when Westminster is currently doing so little to alleviate matters. And numerous other sporting clubs, cultural organisations, and businesses could be doing more in their local communities. But, as Tucker and Bird demonstrate here, the time for tiptoeing around homelessness, domestic abuse, childhood poverty, mental health issue, and substance abuse has long passed.

During the latter third, this has the feel of a John Pilger documentary in that it's compelling but disjointed. Notwithstanding the odd structuring snag, however, points are made with clarity and trenchancy and it's to be hoped this important film gets a primetime TV screening. And that rough sleeping becomes a major topic in the General Election that is inevitably in the offing.


What a few months it's been for Italian tennis. In November, the national team beat Australia in the final of the Davis Cup. Then, the hero of that campaign, Jannik Sinner, went on to lift the Australian Open trophy in Melbourne in January. What better time, therefore, for CinemaItaliaUK to present Domenico Procacci's fascinating documentary, Una Squadra, which harks back to the golden age when Italy's Davis Cup team reached four finals in five years between 1976-80.

There was much controversy in 1976, when Chile hosted the final of the Davis Cup. The Soviet Union had already refused to play a semi-final because President Salvador Allende had been murdered during the coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power three years earlier. As Chile was considered a fascist country in Italy, there was pressure on the team to boycott the final after beating Australia.

However, Nicola Pietrangeli was determined to go and shame the regime with a defeat on their own doorstep. Team members Paolo Bertolucci, Adriano Panatta, Tonino Zugarelli, and Corrado Barazzutti. But demonstrations were held against the trip, even though the squad pointed out that Italy maintained diplomatic relations with Chile and that Fiat continued to export cars. Playwright Dario Fo criticised them, while Domenico Modugno wrote a protest song. But the Andreotti government sanctioned the departure, as intelligence came from inside Chile that a humiliation could weaken Pinochet.

Pietrangeli would later reveal that there was something of a schism within the team, with Panatta and Pietrangeli on one side and Zugarelli and Barazzutti on the other. The first two were footloose and fancy free and thought nothing of Concorde jaunts to Rio just to get a tan. By contrast, the latter pair were family men, who preferred the quiet life. Consequently, the quartet barely spoke to each other in the locker room.

There was also a bit of needle between Zugarelli and Barazzutti, as the former was chosen to play in the European final at Wimbledon, as he was better on grass. He proved his worth by beating Roger Taylor and the Italians took a 2-0 lead into the doubles. However, Panatta had a dislike of David Lloyd and insisted on serving to his forehand in order `to teach him a lesson' and Bertolucci still despairs that they lost having had five match points.

Unconcerned, Panatta promised to defeat Taylor and duly did so, with Zugarelli beating John Lloyd to send Italy into the zonal semi-final against Australia. Rather than cover this, however, Procacci leaps forward to the match against Spain in Barcelona in 1977. A hostile crowd had bayed at the Italians from the first service, but they had prevailed. When Zugarelli refused to play the dead rubber (claiming to have left his kit at the hotel), Panatta went through the motions in losing 6-1, 6-0. Tired of the incessant booing and having cushions thrown at him, he jumped into the crowd to remonstrate and wound up punching just about the only Italian supported in the bleachers. In a rare display of camaraderie, Zugarelli insulted the consul who came into the locker room to reprimand them and all now recall the episode with a shrug and a smile.

The next anecdote concerns Bertolucci sustaining a back injury playing football-tennis in the warm up before a match against Poland. Panatta is amused by the side effects that a painkilling injection had on his friend's genitals and by the fact that he chose to play doubles with Barazzutti, whom he actively disliked. However, he enjoyed his childish prank of hiding Zugarelli's socks and he recalls that they made an effective team in winning the match.

Finally, we head to Santiago for the 1976 final. We meet Chilean players Patricio Cornejo and Jaime Fillol Durán, while the Italians recall how hard the Pinochet authorities strove to showcase life under the regime. However, Panatta remembers thinking how sad and subdued everyone looked. He had arrived from an exhibition match in Las Vegas and was suffering from food poisoning. However, sports manager Mario Belardinelli (himself once a notable player) read him the riot act and Panatta passed himself fit.

The tennis arena was next door to the National Stadium, which had been used to detain and execute dissidents in 1973. FIFA had sent inspectors to verify that the venue was suitable for a World Cup qualifier. But they had been kept away from the prisoners and the match against the USSR was given the go ahead. When the Kremlin refused to send a team, Chile took to the pitch to score a ceremonial goal and claim their place in West Germany in 1974.

Two years later, Italy arrived to end a 76-year wait for the Davis Cup. Preparations went well and Captain Pietrangeli was happy with the opening draw of Barazzutti against Fillol, as this gave them the chance to take a decisive lead in the tie, as Panatta was firm favourite to beat Cornejo. However, Belardinelli couldn't believe that Pietrangeli was so relaxed and launched such a tirade at supper the night before the first match that he had to be hospitalised.

Ultimately, Barazzutti prevailed. But he was so stricken by nerves that he was two sets down before he recovered his composure. With Panatta winning easily, attention turned to the doubles. Bertolucci was taken aback when Panatta suggested the wore red shirts for the occasion to rub Pinochet's nose in the clay. But Pietrangeli, Zugarelli, and Barazzutti claim not to have known about a conscious plan and insist the choice was coincidental.

As the TV coverage was in monochrome, nobody outside the arena was any the wiser and no one knew that Bertolucci asked if they could play the final set in blue. Having lost three match points, Panatta served for victory and the film ends with shots of the players showing the famous silver salad bowl to the thinning crowd.

Making canny use of archive footage, photos, and newspaper cuttings and offering a hugely entertaining insight into the dynamics of an iconic Italian quintet, this is also a thoughtful treatise on the ongoing debate about the relationship between politics and sport. Even though the mission to bloody Pinochet's nose was a success, its morality is still hotly disputed, especially by those on the left. But Procacci airs these concerns, while concentrating on the clashing personalities of the squad members, who have clearly not let any bygones rest after all this time.

It's wonderful to see Pietrangeli, Bertolucci, Panatta, Zugarelli, and Barazzutti on such fine form and willing to speak openly about the tension that somehow made them such an effective team. As one might expect, Panatta is as charismatic as ever, but Zugarelli is splendidly grouchy and unrepentant over the bizarre Barcelona incident. Indeed, seeing Panatta wading into the crowd prompts one to wonder why Procacci opted not to refer to the infamous `Battle of Santiago', when the hosts kicked lumps out of the Azzurri in winning a group game 2-0 at the 1962 World Cup.

Mimmo Calopresti covered the controversy over the doubles attire in La maglietta rossa (2009), but Procacci gets to the bottom of the affair. He doesn't, however, mention that Italy lost their crown to Australia the following year and failed to regain it against the United States in 1979 and Czechoslovakia in 1980. But this is a must for all sports fans, if only to see Panatta's Brut 33 commercial.

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