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WONDERKID: 10 reasons to watch short film about gay footballer

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In this WONDERKID clip, tensions between team-mates threaten to boil over in training. You can watch the full film online for free

The short film 'WONDERKID' can now be watched online for free - without geo-restrictions - at

Depicting a young professional footballer who's struggling with hidden pressures while making great strides at club and international level, WONDERKID tackles one of the most talked about issues in sport - homophobia.

Sky Sports was proud to broadcast the television debut of the film last November as part of Rainbow Laces weekend, and screened it again on the International Day against Homophobia on May 17. Here are 10 reasons why you should check out WONDERKID...

It's a young film-maker's first project, created with a passion for football and a desire to change the game for the better.

Rhys Chapman was a London South Bank University graduate who knew he wanted to make a film - he just needed to find the right story. He'd been football mad since childhood, but even as a straight kid he sometimes felt he didn't 'fit in' when it came to sport. What would it be like to be alienated from football at the highest level? From there, Chapman researched issues in the game around racism and corruption, but the one he kept coming back to was homophobia. As he told Sky Sports: "Because we don't know of any gay footballers currently playing in the UK, people wouldn't necessarily understand the trauma suffered by someone in that environment. So we've created an authentic and emotional portrayal of a fictional gay footballer at the top of the game, to shine a light on this subject and hopefully create a great deal of compassion towards any gay footballers." After a successful Kickstarter appeal, Chapman won a grant from The Kevin Spacey Foundation and support for the project continued to grow. Now, with the next two World Cup tournaments taking place in Russia and Qatar - countries with anti-gay laws - the timing of the film's global release could hardly be more relevant.

WONDERKID director Rhys Chapman
Image: WONDERKID was devised and directed by Rhys Chapman, a 27-year-old first-time film-maker

By watching, you can be a force for change - in attitudes, opinions and behaviour.

WONDERKID is a short film about a big issue - and it's accessible to a wide audience. It's often said that movies are a machine to generate empathy, and those who have already seen WONDERKID agree they better understand the problem of homophobia in sport after watching it. The extent of that problem remains considerable - recent research shows 63 per cent of people say more should be done to make lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people feel accepted in sport, while February's parliamentary report outlined recommendations on what authorities can do to create a better environment. WONDERKID will certainly make you think - and could even change your point of view entirely. Once you've watched it, share the link to help spread the message for positive change in sport - and search for 'wonderkidfilm' to join the debate.

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Wonderkid logo

The central character is a talented young footballer who you'll want to support.

Rising star Chris Mason brings great emotional depth to the WONDERKID character - you may have previously seen the actor on screen in Broadchurch and the 2015 movie Legend. Off screen, Chris is a staunch Evertonian - he spoke to their fan channel Toffee TV about why the WONDERKID role of Bradley was so important to him. "You'd hate to think that in your job, you couldn't be yourself because of your sexuality or anything like that," said Mason. "The film is there to ask a question - and it's a really good script."

Bradley Cumbo goal celeb WONDERKID
Image: Matchday scenes in WONDERKID were shot at Watford's Vicarage Road stadium

You'll hear several familiar voices which help to make WONDERKID's world authentic.

Helping to tell WONDERKID's story are four Sky Sports broadcasters - 'The Voice of Football' Martin Tyler, co-commentator and pundit Alan Smith, and reporters Geoff Shreeves and Guy Havord. Success and controversy mean Bradley is thrust into the media spotlight, and the tone of the conversations going on around him are reflected in the narration. Under the glare of the cameras - both on and off the pitch - can our hero ever find the peace he needs to fulfil his true potential? Tyler has described the film's theme as "laudable and thought-provoking... it addresses an important issue."

Geoff Shreeves, Rhys Chapman, WONDERKID
Image: Geoff Shreeves was among the Sky Sports football team who lent their voices to WONDERKID

The film puts you right in the drama on the pitch, the training ground and the dressing room.

WONDERKID's shooting locations included Watford's Vicarage Road stadium and the Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre in Enfield - venues that ensured the film's football moments look and feel realistic. Add in the interaction between players and spectators on matchday, and the sometimes strained relationship between team-mates on the training ground, and you've got a polished production that's definitely up to Premier League standard. As Geoff Shreeves said: "I was amazed by the quality of the film, especially the action sequences shot at Vicarage Road. A lot of football films fall down on their action sequences, but these are really impressive."

WONDERKID training ground bust up
Image: The drama escalates as Bradley (Chris Mason) attempts to prove his ability and will to win in training

See how the complicated dynamic between footballer and agent plays out.

The agent is arguably the most important figure in a footballer's life - they're constantly on hand to provide advice, expertise, influence and reassurance. Talent is also a lucrative commodity, which makes the relationship between Bradley - ambitious, unashamed, hot-headed - and his agent Johnny (played by Leeshon Alexander) particularly fascinating. Is Johnny being protective as a concerned friend, or because he doesn't want to risk losing his major asset?

Johnny (Leeshon Alexander), WONDERKID trailer
Image: Does Bradley's agent Johnny (Leeshon Alexander) have his friend and client's best interests at heart?

Consider the effect that abuse from the terraces and negative social media can have on sportsmen and women.

One of your fellow supporters in the stands on matchday has been loudly berating a player throughout the game. It's actually been quite funny - but then he uses a word that's clearly homophobic. What do you do? Now imagine you're that same player on the receiving end. Later, you pick up your phone and see an avalanche of notifications - some just picking apart your performance, others taking aim at something more personal. How would you react? WONDERKID presents both scenarios in a visually arresting style that's sure to get you thinking about the damage which verbal and social abuse can do.

WONDERKID Bradley goal celebration
Image: Bradley's confrontation with an abusive fan on the terraces creates a media circus

Check out the film's atmospheric soundtrack and remixes, which have won widespread acclaim.

WONDERKID will likely stay on your mind long after the credits have rolled ('what happens to Bradley next?' is probably the most common audience response). Also enjoying a life beyond the screen is the film's electronic score, produced by London-based studio SIREN in collaboration with Brain Rays, aka Benjamin Hudson. A series of remixes have widened interest in the ambient themes used in the film, which underline the sense of separation felt by the central character. Most recently, 'Theme I (Brain Rays Kuiper Belt Remix)' uses a vocal hook and additional rhythms to create a stunning chillout track.

WONDERKID Siren album art
Image: The WONDERKID score was composed by London-based studio SIREN

Find out more about mental health - one of your friends or family could be affected.

In the film, Bradley is seen to be afflicted by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - he craves order and symmetry, and his routine has to be carefully managed by his agent. WONDERKID sensitively handles Bradley's OCD, which becomes more apparent when his anxiety is heightened. It's important to discuss different aspects of mental health, something that's helped by those in the public eye discussing their experiences - in March, rapper Stormzy outlined to Channel 4 News how he had been affected by depression. However, the stigma of standing out from the crowd prevents many people from talking about mental health, particularly in sport where perceived weakness can put you at a disadvantage. Childline is one of the organisations seeking to change that - Wayne Rooney is supporting their new Tough To Talk campaign, which is urging boys to 'open up' about their feelings.

WONDERKID England dressing room
Image: Bradley feels alienated from his team-mates but is determined to succeed

Even if you have 'no problem' with LGBT people in sport, there's more to learn.

WONDERKID's central message is for everyone, regardless of sexuality. We can all learn to be more inclusive. Here's a recent story that illustrates this. In March, Clarence Seedorf and Thomas Hitlzsperger were both panellists at FIFA's first-ever Conference for Equality and Inclusion in Zurich. Seedorf respectfully asked Hitzlsperger why it was necessary for LGBT sportsmen and women to be open about their sexuality. The German explained that it was important for footballers to act like role models and help encourage those who might be struggling, before adding: "Every time I read about a football player cheating on his wife - sorry, it does happen! - they talk about their sexuality. Every time I go into the office, I see my colleague's picture with their husband or partner - a straight relationship. Why can straight people tell me that they're straight, and I should not talk about my sexuality?" Seedorf replied that he now saw "the bigger picture", and that he wished others "would embrace the same type of explanation". In WONDERKID, Bradley just wants to be the best footballer he can be - but having to constantly hide part of his identity is holding him back. Can't we all just be ourselves and play the game?

'Be Yourself' - WONDERKID trailer


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