FOX Sports premieres its World Cup documentary miniseries ‘PHENOMS’ at Tribeca Film Festival

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The five-part series begins with back-to-back episodes on Friday, May 25, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on FOX

FOX Sports screened the world premiere for its soccer documentary mini-series “PHENOMS” at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival last week. The screening was followed by a special panel discussion hosted by FOX Sports host Rachel Bonnetta and featuring some of the men and women behind the series. “PHENOMS” is a five-part documentary that chronicles the journey of 65 soccer players as they strive to represent their respective countries in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The panel discussion featured Mario Melchiot (executive producer, “PHENOMS”; former professional player); David Worthen Brooks (executive producer, “PHENOMS”; EVP, All City); Arbi Pedrossian (producer, “PHENOMS”); Chris Perkel (series creative director, “PHENOMS”); Laura Hernandez (co-producer, “PHENOMS”); directors Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist; and Thomas Verrette (editor/producer, “PHENOMS”).

“PHENOMS,” which was three years in the making, was inspired by David’s suggestion that Mario watch the basketball documentary “Hoop Dreams.” “I went home, saw it and got excited,” Mario said during the panel. Then he wondered how a similar story could be told about soccer: “How about we do it our own way?”

The international group of producers, directors and others that turned this vision into a reality want to show viewers of all levels of familiarity with the sport how hard young players around the world struggle to achieve their dream of playing in the World Cup. They wanted to show the human side of the titans that people see on the pitch.

“The first time you visit them, everything is perfect,” Laura said. “The first time you show up, they’re all done up, they’re so happy, their girlfriends are the best.” But that changes when you visit them again “because you completely break the script, and that’s cool.”

“One of the things that we found in all of these stories is the universality of having to rise to the situation,” David later added. “These players get hardened by their failures.”

Another driving force behind “PHENOMS” is highlighting the unparalleled societal significance of soccer. While other sports are mostly diversions from real life, soccer shapes societies, Jeff said.

“We’ve done films in Brazil, Colombia and other countries where you really can’t have a conversation about the direction that culture is moving in without understanding the sport and the role the sport plays. It’s really a mirror for the way those cultures are evolving.”

Jeff also shared his goal for the documentary series: “Ideally we can have diverse audiences identify with their journeys, see themselves in these players, and get motivated by these stories – but also be patient with themselves, knowing that even their heroes go through very real-life problems. Everyone finds their way at their own velocity.”

Arbi added that he hopes viewers of “PHENOMS” will be able to better appreciate the World Cup games they watch. “When people watch this show and then see these guys playing in a game during the World Cup, they’re going to have a huge emotional attachment to these players like I do now, and it’s going to make watching the game so much better.”

Special guests at the Tribeca premiere included New York City FC (NYCFC) coach Patrick Vieira and NYCFC/Costa Rica forward Rodney Wallace; MLS Player Relations Director and former MLS All-Star and No. 1 draft pick Alecko Eskandarian; and New York City’s MLK High Boys Varsity Team (17-time city champions).

Each episode of “PHENOMS” focuses on different positions and roles on a soccer team. Episode 3 (“Goalkeepers”) was screened for the Tribeca audience. See the full TV schedule for “PHENOMS,” which will air on FOX and FS1 starting Friday, May 25.

Watch the full panel discussion below: