Many of the best sports films and documentaries celebrate the success of the underdog, the unheralded triumph, the unlikely champion.
Black and White Stripes – The Juventus Story isn’t one of them.
How could it be when Juventus are the biggest club in Italy, with 33 league titles and two European Cup wins among 63 major honours.
The ‘Old Lady’ has an estimated 300 million fans worldwide and has been owned by one of Italy’s richest industrial dynasties – Fiat owners the Agnellis – since 1923.
But even the mighty Juve know what it’s like to fall on hard times, and Black and White Stripes takes its cue from the 2006 Calciopoli match-fixing scandal, which saw the club stripped of two Serie A titles and relegated to the second tier.
Director siblings Marco and Mauro La Villa tell the story of how the Turin giants fought back to return to the pinnacle of Italian football, whilst also recounting the tangled tale of the Agnelli family’s tumultuous love affair with club.
Buffon, one of the many players who took a pay to stay at Juve after their demotion, speaks eloquently about the loyalty it engenders
As Gianni Agnelli, who died in 2003, is quoted as saying at one point: “I have given more to Juventus than could ever make any sense. I just couldn’t help myself.”
The La Villa brothers capture some of this passion in their film, which features its fair share of sex, drug scandals, dirty politics and – of course – some memorable footballing moments.
They set out to make the documentary after their father – a lifelong Juve fan – died in 2001. “We started to understand that in Italy, soccer is really the only forum for men to be emotional together,” Mauro explained at the London premiere.
Through the owner of a Italian restaurant in their home city of New York, they were introduced to Agnelli’s grandson and heir John Elkann and his brother Lapo, and persuaded the powerful pair they were right men to tell the Juventus story.
Thus, as this is an officially-endorsed film, the La Villas enjoyed access to key Juventus players past (including Michel Platini and Giampiero Bonperti) and more recent (Antonio Conte, Gianluigi Buffon), as well as members of the Agnelli family itself.
Narrated with suitable gravitas by Hollywood actor Giancarlo Giannini, the documentary gives a great insight into the club’s highs and lows since 1923, with the intriguing twists and turns of the Agnellis’ own story blending with the narrative of Juve’s triumphs and setbacks on and off the pitch.
It’s a winning combination, and you don’t have to be a Juventus fan to be carried along by the La Villa brothers’ passion project, which was 10 years in the making.
Of course, we know how the story ends, with the side currently restored to prominence in Serie A but still chasing that elusive third European title.
Goalkeeper and club legend Buffon, one of the many players who took a pay cut to stay at Juve after their demotion, speaks eloquently about the loyalty it engenders.
Marco and Mauro La Villa’s father would be proud of the way in which his sons have honoured his love for Italy’s most celebrated footballing institution.
Black and White Stripes – The Juventus Story, is an Eastern Canal production.