Thursday marks the premiere of the Media Film Festival, and the homecoming of two world travelers, filmmakers and Penncrest alum whose film, LADUMA, will be showing on Saturday at the event.
LADUMA, filmed and produced by 2002 Penncrest grads Jon Korn and Ashwin Chaudhary, chronicles the experiences of American fans during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and also tells the story of how the "beautiful game" has historically brought South Africans together.
"It's an experiential documentary," Korn explained. "We had the cameras rolling the whole time we were there, and through the film, wanted to take people to South Africa and let them experience the biggest sporting event in the world."
Both soccer and film have been passions of the two friends since they attended high school together at Penncrest. After graduating, Korn and Chaudhary went off to college, eventually landing in New York, where they now own a production company called Juice Groove Films.
The concept for LADUMA—which is Zulu for goal—began to take shape after Chaudhary decided, on a whim, to bring a camera down to Mexico City in 2009 to film an intense Mexico vs. USA World Cup Qualifier game.
"When we came back and looked at the footage, it really blew me away," Korn said. "It made me value the amazing stories that go on around you at some of these games—and it's how we developed the idea and began traveling to all the U.S. games we could."
Korn recalled the duo's unforgettable experience at a World Cup Qualifier game in Honduras, which took place during the host country's constitutional crisis in 2009.
"When we played Honduras, it was at a time when there wasn't even a government there," Korn said. "It was probably the craziest soccer experience we've had."
A win against the U.S. would have marked Honduras' first trip to the World Cup in 20 years. In Mexico, fans had been hostile, and in a crowd of thousands of zealous Honduran fans, Korn and Chaudhary were two of only about 40 Americans.
After a close game, the United States won 3-2.
Despite fears of the stadium turning ugly, "there was such a jovial atmosphere," Korn said.
"The Honduran fans crowded around the U.S. fans and were clapping, and chanting 'USA!' all around the supporter section. That was such a powerful experience—and it was that moment that inspired us to quit our jobs and try to make the South African documentary."
So the filmmakers began raising support for their trip to document the 2010 World Cup in Johannesburg, South Africa. They left the country with their film equipment, a few supplies and not much of a budget.
"We were flying by the seat of our pants," Korn recalled.
The original plan was to document the stories of American fans in South Africa—which the filmmakers did. But the pair was so taken with the South African story that the documentary took on a second angle: sharing the story of how soccer brought South Africa together.
In the four weeks of World Cup games, Korn and Chaudhary met dozens of people who told them how soccer had changed their lives. And the game was everywhere—from dusty fields outside of villages, to the poverty-stricken outskirts of the city, to, of course, the matches held in the enormous stadiums built for the World Cup games.
"Whether we were watching an international match-up on the big stage or pick-up games on the streets, everyone was in a jovial mood and soccer was everywhere," Korn recalled. "It's culture coming together in a way that is really, just unrivaled in sports."
The sense of adventure, of traveling and being on the road, was a powerful experience—and once the filmmakers came home, there was the process of translating that experience to the screen: an intensive nine months of editing, interviews with personalities like Alexi Lalas and ESPN's Bob Ley, and working toward the finished product.
"About ninth months later we emerged from our dark world of editing and reacclimated to society," Korn joked. "Then, we started marketing the film."
That journey will take them to soccer cities around the country and film festivals, like this week's festival in Korn and Chaudhary's hometown of Media.
Though both filmmakers are now based in New York, Korn's family still lives in Media, and he travels back here often.
"When we saw that there was a film festival in Media, we were excited—it's always nice to bring something back home."
LADUMA shows Saturday night, on the last night of Media's three-day film festival.
The films, which range in length from three minutes to 90 minutes, generally run back-to-back, so viewers are encouraged to come for the whole evening.
Admission is $10 per evening, or $20 for a three-night pass (Thursday, Friday and Saturday). For more information on the film line-up, or to buy tickets online, visit the Media Film Festival website.