George Best still drawing a crowd years after his death
Full house for premiere of documentary about legend
George Best: All By Himself, an intimate documentary chronicling the troubled Belfast footballer's life, premiered to a full house in the Movie House Dublin Road last night.
More than a decade after his death in November 2005, the turnout was a reminder of how Belfast crowds are still drawn to stories about his life, one that was enriched by talent but destroyed by excess and addiction.
Directed by Daniel Gordon, who garnered acclaim for his harrowing 2014 film about the Hillsborough disaster, All By Himself provides a meticulous, in-depth account of Best's life, which was a key objective from the outset for the filmmaking team.
"We wanted to tell a story that everyone thought they knew, but to tell it in a deeper way," Gordon said. "The challenge was to get those closest to George to tell their experience of knowing him, having had time to reflect in the 10 years after his death.
"The big challenge for me was to find a balance. Of course, we all remember him for being a great footballer, but there was still this dark side to his character, and if you ignore either of those then you haven't made a proper film."
All By Himself follows Best, who grew up in east Belfast's Cregagh estate, as he joins Manchester United aged 15, through to him inspiring Sir Matt Busby's team to the 1968 European Cup when they beat Benfica 4-1.
However, Gordon insists that his film is one that transcends football and a journey that goes beyond the tabloid headlines to tell a human story: one of talent, fame, darkness and addiction.
Through an impressive range of archival footage and testimonies from friends and family, All By Himself paints a balanced and honest portrait of Belfast's wayward footballing genius.
"Making the film I realised what he went through," Gordon said. "He reached the top so quickly, winning the European Cup when he was still only 22, and never quite made it to that level after that, although there were fleeting glimpses.
"The thing about George is that football came so easily to him; he didn't quite know what to do when it started to fall away, and how he tried to confront that adversity was something we tried to capture."
Best's ex-girlfriend Jackie Glass, now known as Ani Rinchen, and wives Angie and Alex Best, are featured heavily throughout the documentary and, according to Gordon, giving the women in his life a prominent voice was essential in telling the complete story.
"It was absolutely pivotal to have the women of his life take us through this journey. I felt it was important that their voices were heard," he said.
George Best: All By Himself, co-produced by Fine Point Films and Passion Pictures, will open in cinemas next Friday, February 24.