Football, love and war in The Third Half
by Vladan Petkovic
- Macedonia's Oscar submission The Third Half is based on a true story from WW2, mixing romance, football, religion, national identity and the Holocaust
Macedonia's Oscar submission The Third Half is based on a true story from WW2, mixing romance, football, religion, national identity and the Holocaust. Co-written and directed by Darko Mitrevski (Bal-Can-Can) (2006), it is the most ambitious Macedonian film since Milcho Manchevski's 1994 Venice winner Before the Rain.
Set in Skopje at the beginning of the Second World War, the basis of the story is the Macedonia football club, which struggled in the league of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and after the invasion by Axis forces, ended up in the National Football League of Bulgaria. Before the trouble starts, the manager of the team invites famous German Jewish footballer Spitz (Richard Sammel) to coach the team composed of amateurs, and take them to the top of the league.
At the beginning of the film, Mitrevski introduces the viewers to Skopje of that period, a multicultural community squeezed between Serbian imperialism and impending fascism of the Axis powers and their Bulgarian allies. The central character is young Kosta (Saško Kocev), one of the Macedonia players, who falls for Rebecca (famous model Katarina Ivanovska in her first role), daughter of the rich Sephardi Jew Don Raphael (Rade Šerbedžija). Divided by religion and class, Kosta and Rebecca first flirt innocently and then fall into a passionate love affair, which causes Don Raphael to disown his daughter.
The film is rich in period detail and local colour, and gives an impressive picture of its setting. Mitrevski manages to coherently put together all the complicated details of the period and the geopolitical situation. The whole cast, including side characters such as Kosta's co-players, does a good job, but it's Sammel who comes out strongest and provides the real emotional anchor of the film.,
Produced by Skopje-based Kino Oko, The Third Half's budget is €2.1m, which is very high for Macedonia. It received financial support from the Macedonian Film Fund and Czech Film Fund, and the post-production was executed by Czech companies I/O Post and Barrandov Sound.
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