Gateway Film Center will screen a special showing before the home opener.

After the Save the Crew movement began last fall, a call was made for locals to help any way they could. Sean Kelly had worked in TV for 15 years—he’s currently a statistician for NBC’s Formula 1 coverage—so he figured he could put together a video segment for the cause, maybe 20 minutes or so.

Instead, Kelly has produced two complete Save the Crew films, one that’s 70 minutes and another of about 90 minutes. The Gateway Film Center will screen the second film tonight in anticipation of Crew SC’s home opener against the Montreal Impact tomorrow.

“The Battle for Columbus” will air at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. as part of the traditional “Crewsmas Eve” celebration. The movie premiere also will include a Q&A session with members of the inaugural 1996 Crew squad and members of the 2008 championship team, as well as an after-party at The Joseph hotel.

Kelly says the second film isn’t quite a sequel to the first, subtitled “The Fans v the System,” which was long-listed for the International Football Film Festival Berlin—check out the trailer below. The first 20 minutes of the new work are similar to part one to give context to viewers who didn’t see it, but the movie branches off significantly from there. A third installment seems inevitable, he says, and he already has enough leftover footage to make it. But the question of when hinges on the fate of the Crew—whether the team is purchased by new local owners or forced to undergo the dreaded move to Austin that owner Anthony Precourt favors.

“The Battle for Columbus” strikes a different tone from its predecessor, Kelly says. The first film was reassuring for fans, a rallying cry of sorts. This film takes another tack, exploring other perspectives on the situation, including why Precourt wants to move the team in the first place.

“It’s not a war against Austin. The subheading of the film is ‘The Battle for Columbus,’ but realistically, it’s almost a civil war,” Kelly says. It’s apathy that fans have to fight against, he continues, pointing out that the Crew hasn’t received the same level of business backing as the Blue Jackets and the Clippers. While mid-sized businesses in the city have largely rallied around the Crew, he says, there’s a dearth of local corporate support, like a naming rights deal for the stadium. It doesn’t help that attendance pales in comparison to some other cities. In Atlanta, attendance topped 70,000 twice last year. Meanwhile, the Crew have struggled to get much more than 15,000.

“I am ideologically against relocating sports teams. I hate that notion. Hate’s a strong word—I hate that notion,” Kelly says. “But there’s no point in me trying to appeal to Anthony Precourt’s fan side. He’s in it as an investor so that’s the reality that has to be confronted.”

The good news, in Kelly’s view, is that the solution also can come from within the city. The team won’t be stolen away if it’s financially successful here. And even if Precourt’s heart is already in Texas, as a businessman he’d be hard-pressed to turn down a better offer in Columbus.

“I’m not letting him off the hook, you understand. This isn’t an hour-and-a-half commercial for, ‘Isn’t Anthony Precourt great?’ He’s deceived a lot of people, mainly fans,” Kelly says. “But at the same time it is important as a filmmaker to tell the whole story, and some of that is not going to be an easy watch for Crew fans. Some of this stuff is going to make them squirm in the chair. It’s going to make them slump their shoulder and think, ‘We’re losing the battle.’ And some of it is a call to arms, and some of it they’ll go, ‘Yes! That’s so us!’ ”

“The Battle for Columbus” has a cliffhanger ending, because just like everyone else, Kelly doesn’t know what happens next. To see the film, visit Gateway's website (the 7 p.m. show is already sold out). Proceeds will be split between Gateway and Save the Crew.

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