On One Field at The Patterson

Last night, I went to a film screening of "On One Field" at The Patterson, and event hosted by The Creative Alliance and in part sponsored by the Craig Willinger Fund.

If you've never been to The Patterson (I hadn't) it's a cool venue - parking was a little tricky, but once inside, there's a small gallery where people can gather before a show. They offer beer on draft, wine, housemade popcorn, and snacks. Inside, the theater space can seat anywhere from 50 to 180 people. 

When the lights dim, the clear holiday lights that loop along the dark red walls glow like tiny stars.

The event began with a brief introduction by the Craig Willinger Fund, followed by the musical stylings of DiDi G, a Burundian musician who hopes to release an album with the Creative Alliance in the near future. He was an excellent performer, trying to engage the crowd, and sang with very real emotion. 

"On One Field" is a documentary by Mauricio Osorio that follows three immigrants who met over the common bond of soccer in Patterson Park. The main thrust of the film is the universal nature of soccer - that, no matter who shows up, no matter what language he or she speaks, they can play soccer. The game is a familiar element that does not require a common language. The footage of the games definitely reflects that diversity.

Osorio is an immigrant himself, a native of Bogata, Colombia, who currently works as an architect. He began learning about film through the Creative Alliance. This is his first long film. He also came to the soccer field as an immigrant. 

Djuro Jovetic, originally from Croatia, is the main thread of the film, and it's easy to see why. He has a dominating personality, a way of talking and talking despite the fact that his English (as he says often) is not good. Many times, the stories he told about learning English, about trips to home depot, about how he began playing soccer, brought laughter to the room. Yet, at the end of the film, when he talks about the Croatian War (he fled it in 1996), the candid nature of the conversation was striking.

David Mbeya and Yves Ngenzirabona, immigrants from Burundi, were also featured. Burundi is located near Rwanda, and has also been effected by civil war. Mbeya fled the country to the Congo, where war followed. His escape came when he was accepted to medical school in Madagascar. He now works with incoming immigrant populations in Baltimore and the surrounding area, assisting them with health-related issues. It's easy to see him in the role, as in the film and in person, he emits a friendly and open vibe.

At one point in the following Q&A session, he pats Osorio and laughs about how it took five years to get Mbeya's interview. "We didn't take him seriously at first, we thought it was a school project," he says, to laughter in the room.

Ngenzirabona, on the other hand, began the documentary ready to begin studying law enforcement at UB. This, he said, was a way to help people. Five years later, it's not clear if he got the degree, but he is a Captain in the US military. Though he wasn't available to give testimony for the end of the documentary (a project that spanned nearly 6 years), he did make the screening and the Q&A.

And it was there that he said something that struck me. When asked about the impact soccer had on their lives, Osorio and Mbeya had thoughtful answers. Ngenzirabona added only one thing, that at the end of the day, after school or work or both, he was stuck at home. He had no where to go, no one to talk to. He couldn't knock in his neighbor's door and say "I need to talk to someone" because that would be weird. Soccer, and the friendships he found at Patterson Park, gave him that missing outlet.

The film was interesting, educational, entertaining, and a little emotional. It will be re-shown on February 17th at the Creative Alliance, and I encourage you to get tickets ($10) if you're able to go. Buy them quick - Osorio's film sold out before the screening last night and left a long waiting list.

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