Taika Waititi returns to TIFF tonight with his football story about American Samoa, The next goal wins Which received great cheers and a sincere response.
Waititi took the stage with the real-life characters in the picture, Thomas Rogen, the Dutch coach played by Michael Fassbender in the film, and Jaya Sailoa, the first non-binary and openly trans woman to compete in a World Cup qualifier.
The pic, directed and co-written by the Oscar winner, was inspired by a 2014 documentary that follows the American Samoa soccer team, famous for its brutal 31-0 loss to Australia in a 2001 World Cup qualifying match. With more qualifiers looming, the struggling team hires a coach Dutch-American Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender) hopes to turn around the worst soccer team in the world.
“Normally, you don’t see a sports movie about winners who keep winning,” Waititi joked. “I couldn’t believe this was a true story.” What’s more, it was a chance for New Zealand Waititi to showcase Pacific Islanders on screen.
“When I was a kid, there weren’t a lot of opportunities to see yourself on screen,” he said.
“I never thought I would make a sports film, especially about a sport I knew nothing about,” he added during the world premiere Q&A at the Princess of Wales Theater here in Toronto.
“I came away knowing a little bit about the sport.”
Rongen confirmed that Fassbender would play him on screen: like the character, the coach’s daughter had died shortly before he took the job of supervising the American Samoa team, and he had “lost some jobs.”
Saelua spoke about the life-changing event that winning in 2011 brought; How long after creating a “platform” for her to launch the diversity program. Saelua now coaches the American Samoan Boys soccer team.
The next goal wins It’s a very different film, an old-fashioned, edgy sports film, very much like the films of the 80s and 90s. Waititi also appears in the film as a Christian preacher.
The last time Waititi was here at TIFF was in 2019 with the world premiere jojo rabbit, It received standing ovations, the highly coveted Grolsch Audience Award, and went on to win an Academy Award for adapted screenplay for the Adolf Hitler satire. It wouldn’t be shocking then The next goal wins It takes the Audience Award again for Waititi.
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