The premise of the new sports drama PLAYOFF, which makes its international premiere at the Montreal World Film Festival this week, is a dandy one…..filled with both historical drama and personal dilemma. American actor Danny Huston brings his trademark intensity to the true story of Max Stoller, an Israeli soccer coach who turned the local team the Maccabi Tel Aviv into European basketball champions. Stoller has a fascinating story. He was a survivor of the Holocaust who came to Israel after liberation and became a legendary local soccer star. When he turns to coaching, he is golden. His team becomes the most successful on the circuit.
A crisis arises when he receives an offer from a German franchise to return to Germany to coach the German National team. Everyone in his circle believes that Max, with his strong sense of family history, will reject the offer. However despite his family’s warnings that this would be the ultimate act of betrayal, he accepts the offer and goes back to Frankfurt, the city where his father was taken away by the Gestapo. The decision also creates public outrage in Israel and Max is ostracized for his decision.
Once in Germany, he is drawn to the area where he lived as a child and finds himself attracted to Deniz, a young Turkish woman with a teenage daughter, who is as lost in her new life in a new country as Max is. While helping Deniz to find her husband, Max digs into his own past and discovers new disturbing facts about his family history. He begins to realize that his life has been based in part on betrayal and long lost family secrets. As he attempts to turn around the fortunes of his team through hard work and perseverance, he slowly begins to understand that he must abandon the symbols of the past and stake out a claim on his own life story.
PLAYOFF is an Israel/France/Germany co-production directed by Eran Riklis, whose 2004 film THE SYRIAN BRIDE won the Montreal World Film Festival’s top prize that year and became a major international arthouse hit. Born in Jerusalem in 1954, Riklis studied cinema at Tel Aviv University before graduating from the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield, England in 1984. He has directed films for cinema and television, as well as commercials and industrial films, in both Israel and England. He made his feature debut in 1984 with ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE DAMASCUS. He has shown several of his subsequent films in Montreal over the years, including VULCAN JUNCTION (1999), THE SYRIAN BRIDE (2004), LEMON TREE (2006) and THE HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGER (2009). PLAYOFF is currently playing the international film festival circuit and will open theatrically in the United States later this year.