Maradona, Cantona, Henry - films on some of the most famous football stars of all times are being screened at the “Babylon” movie theater in Berlin. A jury is set to select the best football movie of all times.
Olaf Thon played for the German squad that last won the World Cup in 1990. It's been a long time since Schalke's defending midfielder last had to give autographs, but now he's standing in the foyer of the Babylon movie theater signing footballs for the audience of the "11mm - The International Football Film Festival."
Filmmakers and football fans have come together in Berlin for screenings, readings and discussions: 50 features, documentaries and short films are being shown.
These include portraits of superstars Diego Maradona and Thierry Henry but also "50 years of Bundesliga", a comprehensive look at Germany's top league. Olaf Thon played his part in that, and at the film festival he has a chance to share his memories of what went on behind the scenes and on the pitch.
"Football Undercover" tells the story of Iran's women's soccer team
The festival attempts to look at the culture of football. The organizers believe that football is one of the few unifying topics across countries and societies: It touches on the lives of the rich and the poor and triggers emotions ranging from warmth and togetherness to fanaticism.
Many of the films look beyond the sport itself. "Football Undercover," for example, follows the story of the Iranian women's national soccer team. The movie won the Golden Bear for the best documentary at the Berlinale film festival in 2008.
It is now one of the entries for this year's special best football film award, alongside "Looking for Eric" a French-Belgian-British-Spanish production from 2009 starring enigmatic former France striker Eric Cantona. The film tells the story of the escape from the trials of modern life that football and its heroes can bring for its fans.
Germany's "The Miracle of Bern", from 2003, is also up for the award. It depicts a young boy witnessing the post-war Germany's unexpected triumph at the 1954 World Cup.
One of the highlights of this year's festival was the first screening in Germany of the Italian-Argentine production "The Lost World Cup" which tells the story of archaeological team in Patagonia that finds traces of a World Cup competition that took place there in 1942.
Deutsche Welle is one of the festival's media partners and has submitted its documentary "Nie mehr 2.Liga" ([We will] Never again [be] relegated) showing the emotional story of Hertha Berlin, the German capital's top club, being relegated to the second tier division in May 2012.