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The Home Game proves a winner

A documentary set in a tiny Icelandic town, The Home Game captures the spirit of community and teamwork. Support from Iceland’s film fund helped directors Smari Gunn and Logi Sigursveinsson spend the months it took to follow residents of Hellissandur reach their dream, one that started decades previously when townsfolk created what some called the country’s best football pitch—or in United States parlance, soccer field. Despite the perfect pitch, circumstances intervened, and no serious competition ever christened the site. The coach got older and took up golf. Team players, including one girl, grew up, and some had children. Ultimately all returned to that earlier dream of bringing in a serious team from another region for a sanctioned game. Introducing key players from the 2020s with plenty of old photos and video to show changes between the past and present, filmmakers follow the sometimes elaborate process of pulling everything together, whether by filling out forms correctly, convincing people to join the team, or preparing an ice laden field to acceptable condition. Though it certainly helps to appreciate football/soccer and understand its rules, the documentary’s deeper appeal comes from its sense of place and people. My own visit to Iceland did not include a stop in Hellissandur, but I spent time in communities that struck me as similar.  Situated in unforgiving terrain whose challenges include long, dark, snow-laden winters, residents combine toughness with wry humor and the ability to enhance their options for entertainment by learning music, playing sports, and building community centers like The Freezer. Filmmakers show The Freezer Cultural Center and other community locations through effective camera work including drones, making the project look slick and professional. Though the nature of their documentary meant they could not script an ending—like what happens during the game—they knew they could call results a victory simply because the town achieved its goal of getting a match. “We already won with what we are doing,” says one before the game.  Or from another, “We’re living the dream.” The dream provides some surprises—no spoiler alert here but trust that the end comes in a way to make a fiction writer’s heart patter with joy. Victory takes on different forms, and

proves a winner.

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