Saturday 11th October, 6.30pm – ICA
Tuesday 15th October, 12.45pm – Vue Islington
In the Favelas of Brazil, football is a serious business. The passion, excitement and pressure of the game are all on display in Sunday Football, yet the lack of clarity and beautiful, but often obscuring camera work dilute its power and intrigue.
Taking place in close proximity to the world cup in Rio de Janeiro, Eryk Roach’s arthouse documentary focuses on the final game of a local tournament between neighbouring favelas. Intercut with scenes of preparation, and ending with the winning team’s celebration, the majority of film is concerned with the game itself, but the presentation of Sunday Ball differs drastically from your usual football coverage.
The aim here is to move the focus from skill and technique on display to the people playing the game. With no narration whatsoever, the voice over is provided mostly by the coaches, players and fans, while the camera work often focuses on the reactions of the players, foregoing clarity for a powerful emotional response. Moreover, the photography all occurs at ground level, keeping the action frenetic but once again acting to obscure the outcome of the game.
Both teams are introduced effectively to begin, with team huddles giving both sides a real character persona, but it’s not long before their plights are forgotten against the game itself. The trouble with real football matches is that they’re often not as exciting as you might hope.
As if to compensate for the slight lack of excitement, the game is interspersed with some strange choices in terms of editing, including a confrontation with fans and a referee being played backwards to an operatic soundtrack. If it weren’t for the fact that these sequences reeked a little of desperation they may have been worth a little more consideration, but as they are, they seem out of place and irrelevant.
There is some beautiful camerawork on display in Sunday Ball, but with a clear through narrative it might be asking a little too much of non football fans, even at its 71 minute running time. It’s certainly an intriguing subject for a documentary, but with so much going on behind the scenes, it’s a shame that this doc couldn’t get past the beautiful game.
Joe Manners Lewis
Sunday Ball is released in the UK on 11th October 2014.
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Watch the trailer for Sunday Ball here: