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Behind the scenes of the documentary about Hector Bellerin

An interview with Charles Hoare, the filmaker of 'Unseen Journey'

Behind the scenes of the documentary about Hector Bellerin An interview with Charles Hoare, the filmaker of 'Unseen Journey'
Ph: Joshua Johnson at HIFEN Studios
Ph: Joshua Johnson at HIFEN Studios
Ph: Joshua Johnson at HIFEN Studios
Ph: Joshua Johnson at HIFEN Studios

At 72' minute of Arsenal-Chelsea on 19 January 2019, chasing a ball, Hector Bellerin hurt his leg and ruptured the ligament of his ACL. A shocking event for the Spanish full-back, as it would be - and as it is every time - for any footballer. The trauma is very great, and livin' the severity of that injury, Bellerin decided to testify about his experience with a documentary, live these days on some of his social accounts (YouTube and Facebook). The name is Unseen Journey, and in nine episodes it tells the stages of the recovery of the Arsenal player's injury, from the operation in Barcelona to the return to the pitch in September 2020. 

The documentary focuses a lot on the psychological context that accompanied Bellerin during the convalescence months and the recovery, to offer a testimony of what you really live when you are risking your lifetime passion. To understand it more, nss sports talked to Charles Hoare, the English documetnary director, who have followed (with his crew) Bellerin throughout the months of the injury. 

Ph: Joshua Johnson at HIFEN Studios
Ph: Joshua Johnson at HIFEN Studios
Ph: Joshua Johnson at HIFEN Studios
Ph: Joshua Johnson at HIFEN Studios

1) In recent years we have seen some documentaries (such as Prime Video's ​All or Nothing or Netflix's ​Sunderland Till I Die) that included injury cases. What are the benchmarks in recounting a footballer's injury? How serious is the psychological aspect? 

The benchmarks are obviously, checking off each major part of the story. For example, a player gets injured, he feels down, then you show a more positive side and the long side of rehab which is a must. The overall view is that you need the injury, surgery, rehab, more rehab, then the final return.

That's the basics. I found that making the documentary, that story for me, had been done. So it was how can I make that the background vehicle but to put things round it to make it more interesting to those that aren't football fans. For example, I always thought "What would make my mum watching this?". We wanted to show something that everyone could be invested in, not just someone interested in Arsenal, football or Hector. We had many points but we were so conscious of not making it about a typical injury recover film but, instead, showing his growth and his story to show how you can deal with injuries of this nature. 

The psychological aspect was massive, it's such a hard one to show. We were lucky Hector opened up to us and that's shown in the documentary through the moments with his family. I think the psychological aspect is one of the hardest things to capture on film, than showing him just being sad. We would think, "Do we have another way we can show it?", perhaps through interviews with others like the one we shot with Jon Toral (Hull City defender, who was recovered in the same hospital of Bellerin in the film, ed). Then we wanted to show the other interests in his life, that kept him occupied throughout recovery, like in episode 5 where we showing his life away from the pitch. 
 
It was so key to get across:0 yes it's sad, it's awful, but this is how you get through it. Detailing that positive spin and a lot of that comes from Hector. From my point of view, in terms of editing and creating it, I think we got that raw side. We didn't want it to be sugar coated.
 
2) After being one of the best full-backs in the world, Hector Bellerin is also one of the most followed players for extra-field reasons. How much does his personality affect him when he plays or in general when he does his job?  
 
His personality is someone that is very normal, just he has a lot of interests, especially on the creative side but at the end of the day, he gets paid for playing football. He just wants to experience different things that aren't football, which I fully understand but the two worlds don't collide. What I learned from him, is that he compartmentalizes the two and his interests away from football.  There's a nice scene in episode 5, when he talks about his love of football and it is being his number one passion.
 
What people don't realize is that his personality was very helpful in overcoming the injury and while his "work" stopped. In episode 7 he says, "I don't think anyone else in the world, in any other profession, is told they can't do their job." It's very rare for that to happen. But when a footballer gets injured, he's told "go home to recover," which must be so daunting, but thankfully, his personality and interests came into play when he had that free time.
 
 
3)Arsenal now have serious difficulties in the PremierLeague,yet they are not a very different team from the one that won the FA Cup four months ago. You who've been following the team for the last year, what do you think is going on in the dressing room?
 
Being an Arsenal fan, I did have my Arsenal fanbase head-on and I knew the frustrations that the fans were thinking but I get the luxury of seeing both sides. When we are going through a bad patch, I have now met these individuals that might be getting criticised but I have seen them be upset and how hard they work to change it. 
 
I think in any workplace when you go through a bad patch, it's all about how you communicate to get out of it. As Rob Holding said when we interviewed him, having that leadership that Hector brings is vital and I think now we are seeing the benefits of that. I think people overthink what happens in a dressing room, they are all human and whatever happen every player just wants the best for Arsenal. Proof is in the pudding as they got through it as now we are seeing them play so well. We have times at HIFEN (the documentary production company, ed) where we might not get chosen for a couple of pitches, but like in football, it's how you stick to your principles and eventually your luck will turn.