Refreshingly free of the tired human-interest personality profiles that afflict sports documentaries on both the big and small screens, director Eryk Rocha has created an impressionistic, visually stunning cinematic essay about a non-professional, championship soccer match between two teams representing Brazilian favelas. Dripping with atmosphere commensurate with the sweat coming off the players’ bodies, Sunday Ball delivers an immersive quality on a budget that probably wouldn’t cover ten minutes of coverage of a Monday Night Football game.
Rocha (the son of famed Cinema Nov director Glauber Rocha) filmed the match taking place in a rundown field in Rio de Janeiro’s Sampaio neighborhood, a mere stone’s throw from the lavish stadium in which 2014’s World Cup final was held. But from the passion and ferocity exhibited by the players during the match, you would think that they were competing in the World Cup themselves.
A sports film of the most primal variety.
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Don’t bother attempting to track the progress of the game, the final match in an annual championship series among 14 teams. Eschewing the displaying of scores and traditional athletic competition signposts, the film aspires to, and largely achieves, a poetic quality with its gorgeous, gleaming cinematography often utilizing slow-motion; immersive sound design capturing everything from the trash talk of the spectators to players’ grunts to impassioned pep talks by the coaches; editing that captures the motion of the game in all its frenzied energy; and an eclectic musical backdrop featuring classical pieces by the likes of Wagner, Puccini, Villa-Lobos as well as an original percussive score by Jorge Amorim.
Reveling in the proletarian nature of these matches marked by a passion undimmed by the big money and corruption of FIFA, Sunday Ball is more of a sensory than intellectual experience. But to paraphrase an old joke by Woody Allen, as sensory experiences go it’s one of the best.
Production: Aruac Filmes, Filmegrah, Mutuca Films, Canal Brasil
Distributor: Cinema Slate
Director: Eryk Rocha
Screenwriters; Eryk Rocha, Juan Posadas
Director of photography: Leo Bittencourt
Editor: Renato Vallone
Composer: Jorge Amorim
Not rated, 71 min.