Paul Greengrass shoots and scores with Barcelona film Barça

British director is in Cannes to sell movie celebrating recent success of Catalan side
  • @MrNickClark

Barcelona's footballing style has been compared to high art, and it emerged yesterday at the Cannes Film Festival the team will become the focus of a "cinematic portrait" by blockbuster director Paul Greengrass.

The celebrated British director, who began his career making documentaries for ITV's World in Action, is to direct Barça, "an epic cinematic portrait of FC Barcelona", covering four years in which they won an extraordinary 13 trophies.

The film is in pre-production, and the backers are in Cannes to sell it internationally. Greengrass, whose films include The Bourne Supremacy and United 93, said: "They [Barcelona] have given the world a rare glimpse of sporting perfection, and memories that will last for as long as the game is played." The director himself supports Crystal Palace.

Manager Pep Guardiola stepped down from the Catalan club in April, saying "the reason is simple: four years are long and they wear you down".

During his reign, Barcelona have won 13 trophies so far, including two Champions League wins and three Spanish titles, with players including Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta entrancing football fans around the world.

Greengrass is to work with Chris King, the Bafta-winning editor of Senna, the documentary about the life of the Brazilian Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna. Sport and political writer John Carlin will be executive producer.

Glen Basner, of FilmNation Entertainment, which will handle the sale, said: "With Paul's tremendous talent, this is sure to become the singular film on football."

Cannes was in full flow for the second day of the festival yesterday.

Two films in competition were screened: Rust and Bone, starring Marion Cotillard, and After the Battle, an Egyptian film set in Tahrir Square.

Director Yousry Nasrallah warned yesterday the revolution in Egypt "is not over yet" as strict censorship on cinema and music has been imposed in the wake of the Arab Spring. He said the film's selection sent a strong message for those in Egypt looking to shackle artists.

"In a context when the cinema is being attacked as a sin, along with singing and music, when these art forms are being censored by Islamic parties, the commitment of the actors and the director is a commitment to cinema," he said.

After the Battle follows the unfolding drama through the characters of Reem, an advertising executive-turned-activist, and Mahmoud, a horse rider from Giza.

The action follows the Battle of the Camel in February last year, when Mubarak supporters and others manipulated by the regime charged against the protesters in Tahrir Square on horses and camels.

"The film was made in an exceptional situation. That it was selected is a signal to the industry and the Arab world. It is only with liberty and freedom that we can achieve this kind of thing," the director said.

The filming took 46 days over a period of eight months and the production was given a code name to suggest it was a romantic comedy.