Tri Continental Film Festival | From the Directors – Craig Tanner – The March of the White Elephants
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From the Directors – Craig Tanner – The March of the White Elephants

The Fifa World Cup is undoubtedly one of the greatest sporting events on the planet. Hosting the event is considered to be an honor and privilege, yet, this comes with a range of issues which have come to haunt the global football tournament. The legacy of the tournament has increasingly come under criticism, with suggestions of wasteful expenditure, unnecessary stadiums and a corruption scandal which is still on going and could irrevocably damage the legacy of Fifa and all previous tournaments. In this installment of From the Directors we talk to Craig Tanner, Director of March of the White Elephants, which offers a critical look at Fifa and the legazy of its tournament.


Craig Tanner

March of the White Elephants 


Tanner1)  What motivated you to make this film and did you ever think you were crazy to even go there?



The idea behind The March of the White Elephants was to build on what was predicted in a film I made in 2008 – Fahrenheit 2010 – which was based upon interviews conducted before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.  Many of those interviewed at that time believed that the stadiums being built for that event would stand empty afterwards, diverting public funds away from areas of social need such as housing, health care and education. That film was released before the predictions that the stadiums would turn out to be white elephants could be tested.


In June 2013 my interest in returning to the subject was sparked by the massive protests in Brazil, where the streets of Brazilian cities were filled with hundreds of thousands of people expressing their outrage about the waste of public funds on stadiums, when many were living in slums without running water, sewage facilities and electricity, and the health and education systems were in a state of crisis. They were questioning why the Brazilian government was complying with FIFA’s demands for lavish stadiums, yet FIFA standards did not apply to the real needs of the Brazilian people. They were also predicting, as had been the case in South Africa, that the stadiums would stand idle after the tournament.  By that time, it had become apparent that the new stadiums in South Africa were empty shells.  An Oxford University study had concluded that the World Cup in South Africa involved an over supply of stadiums that did not need to be built in the first place.


As I started to put a treatment together, it struck me that a pattern was emerging – the reality of white elephants in South Africa, and the inevitability of further white elephants in Brazil, with more to come in Russia and Qatar – hence the title.


Was I crazy to make this film? That would require a psychiatric diagnosis which I am not qualified to make, but it is probably true that my production team and I have shortened our lives subjecting ourselves to the stresses of getting this film out into the world with the limited financial resources available to us.  We try to make sense of the experience by treating it as character-building.


2)  In an ideal world, people see your film and they are moved to do three things – what would those three things be?


They would lend their voices to the developing realisation that FIFA is a parasite that exploits the love of football around the world to make billions at the expense of host countries that are left burdened for years to come.


In a lighter vein, three things that those who like the film might want to do is to contribute loose change:

  1. to fund our next film about FIFA’s relationship with Putin and how the Russian elites will prosper from the building of ten new stadiums for the next World Cup in 2018;
  2. to fund legal expenses associated with responding to the inevitable arrest and detention of our film crew in Russia in 2017;
  3. to fund the film after that regarding the stadiums that will stand empty in the desert in Qatar after the 2022 World Cup (assuming that we are released from detention in Russia and get to make another film).


  1. When doing an audience Q&A, what is the question you most enjoy answering? Please also give your answer. And the one you most dread? (you don’t need to give an answer to this one unless you really want to!).



I enjoy all questions, because they allow for discussion of the issues which the film raises.  The purpose of the film is to challenge the popular misconception regarding the supposed benefit of a World Cup to the host nation’s population as a whole (particularly in countries which do not already have stadiums to FIFA’s specifications).  So even when there are questions based upon the discredited trickle-down economic argument (which suggests that poor people without water and electricity will benefit from having an expensive stadium in their city), that allows for debate and for misconceived ideas to be exposed.


I don’t dread any question.  What I would dread is if people, having watched the film, were so unmoved that nobody asked any questions.

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