The Big House (Directors Kazuhiro Soda, Markus Nornes, Terri Sarris, and Filmmakers of the University of Michigan) premiered at the Berlin Critics' Week 2018 on February 16, 2018.
This direct cinema documentary eschews gridiron grandeur to look closely instead at the incredible labors — from the cooks to the cops to the cleaners — that go into hosting 100,000 people. Shot against the backdrop of the 2016 election and the rise of Donald Trump, The Big House presents a microcosm of the Americana that surrounds every game day.

Film Criticism as Agenda: the Berlin Critics’ Week selects international films intended to promote and create stimulating discussions. The Big House was paired with 8th October 2016, a film that documents the shutdown of Hungary's leftist newspaper Népszabadság. The debate that followed (with a selection of the directors of both films in attendance) questioned, "How can documentaries open up and democratize the political?"

Professor Markus Nornes, Filmmaker and Visiting Professor Kazuhiro Soda, and FTVM Alum Rachael Kerr ('17) attended the festival. 

View the post-film discussion with Kazuhiro Soda below. 

What Critics are Saying about the Film


"The Big House is a materialist film in the best sense - a film that always prefers the
material over the idea." 

-Till Kadritzke, The Big House – Kritik   


“My first impression, which wasn’t completely conscious, it is a subtle and very, very
unusual film...It’s like a planetarium of impressions. But the thing is that since you have
this extremely strong subject that unifies space and time...but very, very subtly there is something where you ask yourself, ‘What was this?’ I appreciation very much the
immersion into a reality that is so overwhelming. There are so many things going on at
the same time, so many striking, surprising realities. It’s like you become this
many-headed creature which looks at things with many pairs of eyes.
It’s a very unusual film.” 

- Mathilde Bonnefoy (film editor Citizenfour, Run Lola Run)  

“In The Big House...the largest football stadium in the United States becomes a kind
of petri dish in which this comingling of the political and the social synthesises and then festers. Though the film is cool-headed and clear-eyed, never deviating from its basic constitution or reaching for statements beyond its grasp...there’s something confrontational about the endless scenes of pomp and pageantry, about the overload of processed images that is this panorama of Michigan Stadium.

When the film is inside the place, it’s hard tospot a single image that doesn’t depict
something for sale. It might be something artificial—like the fake smiles of cheerleader -
or something in the process of being turned into a commodity, like the game itself,
never the subject of the film but definitely of serious interest to the many long, probing camera lenses jutting out from the sidelines. And the film depicts a world ostensibly of
leisure that shares an uncomfortable proximity with religiosity and partisanship, whether in
the ostentatious pro-Trump displays that adorn the car parks outside the stadium, the obscenely paranoid anti-Hillary posters, or the dozens of street preachers who beckon to
the crowdsof drunken football fans to join them in soapbox salvation.”

- Christopher Small, Woche der Kritik, Blog #3/18 - Open for Business  

Read the full review fromThe Hollywood Reporter here