Chainrai documentary evidence boosts Portsmouth tale

Balram Chainrai has contributed towards a forthcoming Pompey documentary
Balram Chainrai has contributed towards a forthcoming Pompey documentary
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Balram Chainrai’s words have been frozen, positioned in suspended animation rather than kissing the cutting-room floor.

A deeply divisive figure, yet in the context of enhancing the Pompey narrative, a precious contributor whose input can be integral to the unravelling.

Zanda Films were not navigated by preconception during delving into one of English football’s greatest implosions and most triumphant rebirths.

Despite cataloguing fresh accounts from 50 close observers of those storm-ravaged Fratton Park days, it is the voice of Chainrai, widely-perceived as the chief protagonist, which no doubt will provide the most compelling chronicle.

So far there has been public silence, funding issues pushing back the documentary’s scheduled 2018 release and prompting the scheme’s downscaling in production terms.

Early next year now appears the most realistic outcome, with the focus on an internet format rather than a proposed cinematic variant.

And those involved assembling the intriguing project believe football followers, irrespective of persuasion, will eventually hear a fascinating Pompey tale delivered by Chainrai & Co.

‘If we can't give some insight into it with the work we have carried out, nobody can,’ said Colin Farmery, who has been coordinating the documentary from Pompey’s side.

‘This is probably the best shot we are going to get, a combination between a film and a book to tell the story once and for all.

‘The concept of the film is we allow the protagonists in the story to tell it from their own perspective. We want to let the viewer make up their own mind.

‘Initially, we were thinking of telling the story of the community club, but fairly early in the process it became apparent that to tell the story you actually need to delve a little bit further into the past.

‘Our starting point is roughly the 2008 FA Cup final, but the point of the story is where Portpin get hold of Pompey. That is where the real battle for the soul of the football club began.

‘In the end you had owners in Portpin who primarily weren’t interested in running the club, yet interested in getting back money they were owed. Therefore, from a trust perspective and community bid perspective, we were attempting to fundamentally break that link with the past.

‘In making this film, we didn’t want to airbrush it. It’s such a fantastic story that all the protagonists had roles to play within it.

‘If you are start making decisions about who you don’t talk to, you are kind of selling the story short.

‘We put out feelers to see if Chainrai was interested in going on the record – and he did. The crew met him in London and he gives it from his perspective, you can believe it or not.

‘Having Chainrai there counterbalances it, suddenly what you are making here is a proper documentary – we wanted to tell the story properly.’

The project was launched in December 2013 by Barney Fox and Remy Martin, with filming completed in April this year.

Approximately 250 hours of footage has been collated, including interviews and clips taken from match days, away trips and club events.

With 50 people agreeing to sit in front of the camera to deliver their accounts, average interview times span around two hours per person.

It remains a challenge compacting such exhaustive resources – and, similarly, proven testing to fund it.

Farmery added: ‘Our original concept was to create quite a big cinematic, theatrical film, but that was going to cost the best part of £250,000.

‘We had a pretty good go at getting the financing and were up to £140,000, but it became apparent we weren’t going to close the gap.

‘Last month we decided the next step and I’m delighted to say have secured sufficient funding to effectively make an internet-based film.

‘If you are going to put something on a big screen, the production values go up accordingly. We now don’t need quite the same production values, while, as I understand it, the licensing of archive footage is also cheaper as an internet-based project.

‘It is a blow, we had high hopes of having something quite spectacular for our original concept, but the important thing is this story is told.

‘It's not only a fantastic story for Pompey fans – you couldn't have scripted a better ending – but an inspirational film for supporters of other clubs perhaps going through similar problems.

‘We feel it has a scope beyond Portsmouth. It’s not a parochial, local film, it has a message and story which resonates beyond that.’

The wide range of contributors include Bob Beech, Micah Hall, Ian Peach, John Jenkins, Jo Collins and Paul and Sarah Banks.

In addition, a number of long-standing club employees also assisted, including Debbie Knight, Kev McCormack and Roger McFarlane.

And there are also some other familiar faces.

Farmery said: ‘We have interviewed a number of key protagonists.

‘Peter Storrie is good for joining the whole story together, while there’s Iain McInnes, Mick Williams, Mark Trapani and Ashley Brown from the old board.

‘Joe Michalczuk (ex-Express FM) was the lightning conductor for an alternative perspective of how a football club should be owned.

‘Whether you agree with that (perspective) or not, he was the lightning conductor and took pretty much all of the anger. His perspective is a valid one.

‘We did try to get Andrew Andronikou (former administrator) on the record, but in the end it didn’t happen.

‘In terms of timescales, we are looking to carry out the bulk of production work this side of Christmas.

‘It could be finished this year, but that’s a tight, tight deadline to meet. Certainly, I would think early into the new year.

‘And then you can come to your own conclusion.’