(Not at All) On Football

in 12nd Sevilla – Festival of Euopean Cinema

by Sanjin Pejkovic

In a car outside a football arena somewhere in São Paulo, a father and a son sit and listen to a game. Listening only to the cheering, they try to discern if some of the teams had scored or missed an opportunity. After a while they decide to go back home without really knowing the ending result.

The scene comes from Sergio Oksman’s documentary On Football (O Futebol, Oksman, Spain 2015) screened at this year’s Seville European Film Festival. On Football had its premiere at Locarno Film Festival and is a portrait of a relationship between a father and a son who lost means of communicating with each other. Consisting mostly of their conversations in different locations, On Football details father and son’s time together during the 2014 World Cup in São Paulo. It was shot in locations that were part of Simão’s (Sergio’s father) daily life: his office, from which he runs a small electronics firm on the brink of bankruptcy; the cafes where he eats; and, much of the time, his car.

The film screening in Seville coincided with a real game between Seville FC and Real Madrid. Sounds from the stadium – not even 50 meters away from the festival cinemas – loudly echoed throughout the film. A few people in the audience complemented the director for well-done sound effects. The La Liga game and added a certain metatextuality to an intimate essay on rather complicated moral and existential issues. At the screening, like in Oksman’s film itself, reality somehow clashed with fiction.

After a 20 year long silence, Oksman decides to travel from Madrid – where he lives – to Brasil during the World Cup in football, to reunite with his long lost parent. While in Brasil we quickly understand that this is not going to be another film about catharsis, loss, grief. Rather, it is a film that poses variety of questions but never really offers any clear answers. Oksman’s dad doesn’t feel that he can sacrifice his job hours to watch games and the silence which prevails from the first scenes is getting deeper and deeper. No resolving, just fragments of memories. What kind of obligations do we have towards our family members, is there any way of over-bridging the gap of silence? These questions are simply unanswered. In that way, On Football is a painful film to watch. It creates and shows an empty space a vacuum deflated of the feelings of sadness and nostalgia. But it still is a somewhat melancholic film. Father’s resentment to talk about the past, shows while the two watch a home movie from Oksman’s parents wedding day. The shy happiness of a young couple, their smiles and infatuationthat we see in the old images is contrasted to father’s dry comments thatthe marriage simply didn’t work out.

We have lately seen a few films that are trying to nuance and contrast our fascination for big sport events, huge stars, highlights, fast pace cutting and imbedded dramaturgy that follows – football as a metaphor for both war and peace; football as a social barometer, a class question or whatever not. Talking about sports serves often as a conduit, a way for men to manage to be together. But in Oksman’s film we realize that The World Cup is a kind of fiction. It belongs to television; it is a mediated event, a spectacle. It defines a big story in which the small story of two characters, a father and a son, is interwoven – two characters to which nothing happens. However, what’s really important is what happens in those little daily lives. Simultaneously as the Real Madrid players were losing to the home team – something that of course triggered the crowd at the stadium – we were exposed to another drama that in fact didn’t have anything to do with football.

In the last, touching, scene, we get to see Simão’ scrosswords that are being thrown away by his co-worker after his heart-attack and death. We are exposed to the thousands of words that were never uttered in the film itself. The letters serve only as the physical reminder of a certain person’s existence in a midst of silence he had chosen himself.

Edited by José Teodoro