Spotlight: Susan Koch

Documentary filmmaker Susan Koch teamed up with Ted Leonsis for a Sundance Film Festival hit about soccer, the homeless, and redemption.

By: Nancy Doyle Palmer

When filmmaker Susan Koch read a blog from the World Economic Forum that mentioned an international soccer tournament featuring teams of homeless men, she was intrigued. “I come to my films as a journalist and a Washingtonian,” she says. “I want to find my stories before the New York Times does.”

To develop the story, Koch spent six months with photographer Neil Barrett traveling to Ireland, Spain, Russia, Afghanistan, Kenya, and North Carolina, following seven players to the 2006 Homeless World Cup in Cape Town.

Kicking It, the documentary that resulted, was selected to screen at the Sundance Film Festival in January—one of about 210 movies selected from 9,000 entries. It will be featured at the SilverDocs festival this month in Silver Spring. The trials for the US team to play in this year’s Homeless World Cup team come to Washington June 27 to 29 at the DC convention center.

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, one of the film’s producers, thinks the movie will put Washington filmmakers on the map. “I think it says we have arrived,” he says.

Koch, who grew up in Bethesda, worked for many years at WETA and NBC before striking out on her own with husband and fellow filmmaker Chris Koch. The couple have two daughters and live in Cabin John, though they did a brief stint in Los Angeles. “Who doesn’t want to live in Venice Beach?” she says. “But if you want to do a film about something important, this is the place to be.”

The film is narrated and coproduced by actor Colin Farrell. “I was even dubious to add anything to it,” he says. “It’s such a powerful story, beautifully rendered and beautifully told.”

City at Peace, a 1998 Koch documentary about a musical-theater group for disadvantaged area kids, also won acclaim and appeared on HBO. “I’m always looking for stories that are important but also entertaining,” says Koch. “I fall in love with all my characters.”

This article is from the June 2008 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from the issue, click here.