Luc Vu (Anh Do) is a Vietnamese-Australian living in Yagoona, way out in Sydney's Western suburbs. Unable to find a job after being made credundant from the factory that closed, Luc does the best he can to look after his 11 year old sister Anne (Lisa Saggers), who is his responsibility since their mother died. When welfare officer Alison (Claudia Karvan) tells him that Anne will be put into a foster home unless he gets a stable job, Luc convinces his high school mates to enter The Holden Cup, a rugby league competition with a first prize of a new Holden Ute, representing 'the great Australian dream'. But Luc struggles to live up to the expectations of his elderly Vietnam War veteran Grandad (Dao Minh Sinh) who only believes in success.
Review by Louise Keller:
Footy is much more than a game to Luc and his mates. In Yagoona, where there is nothing much to do, football is their sport, entertainment and the chance to feel good about themselves. A good-hearted sports comedy about family, friends and football, Footy Legends, is the second film from acclaimed filmmaker and Australian Of The Year Khoa Do. This time, he collaborates with his brother Anh, who co-wrote the script and plays the lead role. The subject matter is obviously close to the Do brothers' hearts, echoing traces of their own Yagoona upbringing. The characters are diverse and the story canvassing themes including reaching for dreams, is never taxing. Perhaps the emotional curve is not as steep as I would have hoped, but the script which accentuates the characters' positive elements struggling in a difficult world, results in a warmly uplifting experience.
'Throw me the ball and I'll show you magic,' says Anh Do's Luc, whose self esteem has had a battering when all his efforts to get a job fail. The responsibility of looking after his 11 year old sister Anne (Lisa Saggers) weighs heavily, especially with the pressure of proving himself to the welfare officer (Claudia Karvan). As Luc, Anh Do is instantly likeable, with an unselfconscious air and a broad smile that lights up his face. Relationships are explored between Luc, his little sister, his strong-willed Grandad and his football mates, who are a delightful mixed bunch of hard nuts with soft centres. There's a bashful Romeo with a crush on the girl next door (Emma Lung), and charismatic newcomer Tristian Fereti as Donald, whose big frame and even bigger afro hair become even more appealing than his relationship with the blonde in the correctional centre.
Shot with a hand-held camera, the football sequences give us the sense of being right in the middle of the action and as the finals approach, it is clear that there is much more at stake than the game. The spectators are inspired, as are the locals in the pub and the players themselves. By incorporating real-life Australian sporting personalities, lovers of rugby league will no doubt be drawn to the film, although you don't have to be a football enthusiast to enjoy the experience.
Andrew L. Urban:
The combination of biting reality and uplifting aspiration makes Footy Legends seem like a slightly roughed up version of one of the many Hollywood films that use sport as a metaphor for life, always giving us an underdog team for whom to barrack. In Khoa Do's filmmaking hands, this subgenre is given a strong dose of Australiana but the essentials remain: keep striving for your dreams.
Having proved he can make a film with virtually no money (The Finished People, 2003), Do with a slightly bigger budget shows he can handle more complex filmmaking - notably sports action. Impressively staged rugby field work gives the film a robust credibility, as teams clash for the honour of winning, with our heroes always an outside chance. While this aspirational thrust is entirely natural, the film requires the Yagoona team to overcome superior sides more than once. I would have liked the screenplay to show us how our characters faced their lives after coming second, say.
But despite occasional lapses of pace and a slightly episodic feel to the film, the warmhearted performances - not least young Lisa Saggers as the 11 year old whose future is at stake - and a multi-racial cast who seem to have been plucked out the actual suburb of Yagoona, makes for an endearing work.
Khoa Do is clearly establishing his credentials as a filmmaker with social commentary skills, and working in the milieu he knows best, the underprivileged sections of Australian suburbia.
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KHOA DO INTERVIEW
FOOTY LEGENDS (PG)
CAST: Anh Do, Paul Nakad, Greg Poppleton, Steven Rooke, Angus Sampson, Ivan Topic, Jason McGoldrick, Shane MacDonald, Tristian Fereti, Lisa Saggers, Dao Minh Sinh, Matthew Johns, Andrew Voss, Emma Lung, Peter Phelps, Claudia Karvan
PRODUCER: Khoa Do
DIRECTOR: Khoa Do
SCRIPT: Khoa Do
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Martin McGrath ACS
EDITOR: Suresh Ayyar
MUSIC: Dale Cornelius
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sarah Stollman
RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 3, 2006