I believe James Leong and Lynn Lee have done it again, in coming up with a documentary which surpassed my expectations, even though it was built up from the anticipation of over a year to having finally been able to watch it on the big screen. Compared to their earlier works, Homeless FC has a very assured hand in crafting the documentary from a diverse pool of characters and their backgrounds, which isn't easy to begin with given that they had to open up quite a bit of their lives, and unglamourous past, to be scrutinized.
However, Homeless FC doesn't pass judgement on the characters whom through the course of the documentary we would come to get acquainted with, and some, like Chor Pat the gambler, whom I believe most audiences would elect as the crowd favourite, given his usually jovial nature, despite the immense challenges both personally and professionally. Everyone in the Dawn Team are homeless (therefore the title), but have their own personal, painful stories on how they get to their current predicament. Like Hung who's an ex-jailbird for being involved in triad activities, David finding it hard to look for work given his job hopping tendencies, and Ah Lung, a relative good looking young chap whose aspirations go beyond just being a delivery man.
For most, family has turned a blind eye and left them, and they struggle to regain acceptance not only from society, but more importantly, from that of their loved ones. There's no equivalent of a Yellow Ribbon project, and it's up to Wai Tung their social worker to help them tide through their difficulties, and at times, to even cajole, persuade and convince, to varying degrees of success, the Dawn Team in their quest to face up to their problems, and take active steps in resolving them. And it's very clear that, not looking down on them, they have different levels of understanding situations on hand, and their explosive attitudes most times do not help at all.
As mentioned earlier, Homeless FC doesn't pass judgement on the folks constituting the Dawn Team, and doesn't allow the audience to do so too (well, unless you really want to). For most, they are a victim of circumstances, and are tempted out of desperation to break out of the vicious circle of poverty, and to rebuild their lives. Etching out a living with a past society frowns upon, is never easy, as they face discrimination and even opportunities of exploitation should they manage to secure a job offer. It reminds us that nobody's perfect, and sometimes in life we're dealt with a bad card, and worse of course, be caught cheating at the table.
What of the football matches you say? Yes they're included of course, but takes a more secondary role up until the last 20 minutes. This was the first time I witnessed a Homeless World Cup competition, and it's more of a street soccer game rather than a full fledged 11-a-side tournament on a football pitch. The 4th edition took place in South Africa, and travelling to a foreign land allowed the lucky few to broaden their horizons, and see that the world is their oyster, should they work hard and change their attitudes, lives and set out to achieve goals, all of which are criteria of being selected into the team representing Hong Kong, and selection is not just based on ball skills alone.
Watching this documentary also makes you want to count your blessings, especially for those of us who are leading fairly comfortable lives, with support from family and friends, and in not worrying about where the next meal would come from. Homeless FC is not just a documentary about football, but about the lives of the downtrodden, and the provision of opportunities to pick oneself up, and believing in yourself again, despite adversities that life dishes out.
So how did they fare in the tournament? You'll have to watch the film to find out!
There are still 2 more screenings of Homeless FC at this year's SIFF. The first is on 8 April Tuesday 7pm and the second is on 11 April Friday 9:15pm. All screenings are at Sinema Old School. Tickets are still available!
Book your tickets now by clicking here:
8 Apr Screening
11 Apr Screening
Official Homeless FC Movie Website with Embedded Trailer
Trailer on YouTube
Excerpt on YouTube
The SIFF Singapore Filmmakers Interview Series
Kan Lume, Writer-Director of Dreams From The Third World
HAN Yew Kwang, Writer-Director of 18 Grams of Love
ENG Yee Peng, Director of Diminishing Memories II
Sherman ONG, Screenwriter-Director of Hashi
James LEONG and Lynn LEE, Directors of Homeless FC
Lionel CHOK, Producer of To Speak
Harman HUSSIN, Director of Road to Mecca