Visions of 8

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A film of the 1972 Munich Olympics based upon ten- to twelve- minute mini-films made by eight directors from different countries, and spliced together into a single feature by the man who had the idea, Hollywood documentary producer David Wolper. The eight were Milos Forman from Czechoslovakia; Kon Ichikawa from Japan; Claude Lelouch from France; Juri Ozerov from the Soviet Union; Arthur Penn from the USA; Michael Pfleghar from Germany; John Schlesinger from the UK; and Mai Zetterling from Sweden. Wolper had planned for Visions of 10, but Italian Franco Zefferelli withdrew in objection to Rhodesia's expulsion from the Games, and Senegalese Ousman Sembene got so immersed in the fortunes of his topic, his home country's basketball team, that he never delivered his contribution. The directors toyed with many ideas for their individual contributions, Milos Forman finally focusing upon the drama of the decathlon competition, and those former athletes who now acted as officials carrying their fold-up chairs officiously and in orderly marching fashion across the field: ‘They seemed like such drones’, noted Forman, adding that ‘it is sad to see how they have gone from being athletes to functionaries’. The resulting film was a highly original departure from the usual model of official Olympic documentary, assembling distinctive interpretive angles on the meaning and the drama of the Games. It was a necessary innovation, too, in that advances in television technology in the 1960s meant that broadcasters could capture on an everyday, routine basis the drama of athletic performance and sporting competition; an official documentary needed to offer something discrete and different, and this is what Wolper's vision produced. Writer George Plimpton provided an illuminating review of the film in ‘Olympic Visions of Eight’ (Sports Illustrated, 27 August 1973).

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.

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