Of course, you couldn't see what was going on because as usual there were another couple of Italians lying down feigning injury.
I knew we'd obviously stumbled upon something when, even before I'd seen the incident, people in the English press were quoting our film to make Zidane out to be a baddie.
SFBG Was that frustrating?
DG I think [Zidane]'s been sent out [of matches] more times than anyone else who wore the number 5 in the history of football. He's a real person; he's volatile.
It doesn't really matter what [Italian player Marco] Materazzi said to him; what matters is that he said something to one of the greatest footballers of this generation. There's five minutes left to go in [Zidane]'s career, and you want to taunt him about his wife?
SFBG How did you come to collaborate with Parreno?
DG Philippe and I have had mutual friends since the early '90s. We'd pop up in the same group exhibitions around 1990 and 1991. He made a film with Rirkrit Tiravanija and Carsten Höller in 1994 called Vicinato, and then I got involved along with Liam Gillick and Pierre Huyghe in [1996's] Vicinato 2. We'd spent a long time together talking about the script, and we shot it together down in Monaco. We watched a lot of football during that period as well.
But the genesis for the project really happened in Jerusalem, of all places. Philippe and I happened to be in a group exhibition ["Hide and Seek," curated by Ami Barak] there in 1996, and it just so happened the exhibition was under a football stadium, the Teddy Kollek Stadium. We finished our installations very early, and since Jerusalem isn't a place to go idly wandering, we bought a football and played Keepy Uppy for about a week. During that time we spoke of what we remembered about being kids playing football, watching football, and what we aspired to [achieve]. Then we spoke about cinema and the fact that people had been waiting for us both to make a movie.
We chose Zidane partly because and I think it's the same after our film he's an incredibly enigmatic character. He has this absolutely impenetrable facade. He's Zinedine Zidane.
Every time we met him, there was some other family member with him, and they're all bigger than him. When he's off the pitch, he's not as big as he seems when he's on the field. It's incredible what happens to his physiognomy and physicality when he's playing.
He was won over because during the first meeting we had with him, we said, "We want to work with you because, looking back over the past few generations, you represent something more than just another football star, something deeper than [Diego] Maradona or more complex than [David] Beckham." We had reedited some footage of [Manuel dos Santos] Garrincha, the old South American player, from a beautiful film [Garrincha, Joy of the People, directed by cinema novo pioneer Joaquim Pedro de Andrade] shot in the early '60s. I think the fact that we'd chosen Garrincha and not Pele or Maradona, for example, really struck a chord with [Zidane].
SFBG What you're saying goes back to the fact that Zidane both triggers and reframes issues of race and nationalism because he's so powerful as an athlete and individual.
DG Someone told me that in France during the recent election there was a lot of graffiti over campaign billboards for [Nicolas] Sarkozy and Ségolène Royale saying, "Zidane, Zidane." I wish someone had taken a fucking photograph for me, but I could probably restage it somewhere.
Sometimes I think it even comes down to the Z. There's something about it, like the mark of Zorro.
SFBG What have you thought about the art world response to Zidane?
DG We've spoken to a lot of people about sports, and about cinema.