Sunday Ball hones in on a pair of amateur football teams from the favelas of Brazil as they each compete to win the coveted league trophy. The film observes the spirit and wonder of both teams in turn, diving deep into their heroic status amongst the people of their home towns, whilst also closely documenting the final game itself. Eryk Rocha plunges into the world of favela football, a world where the glossy spectacle of packed-out stadiums and finely-trimmed grass are absent, and passion takes control. The beautiful game without its make-up on.
Sadly for native filmmaker Rocha, his film isn’t quite as beautiful as his subject. In order for any genre of film to be engaging and meaningful, there has to be some sort of emotional connection between the characters on-screen and the audience themselves. True, this might be harder for documentaries, whose characters and connections are dictated by the subjects they cover, but even so the connection must remain strong for the film to truly work. This is Sunday Ball’s biggest fault: it’s not so much that its connection is weak, it’s that it doesn’t exist at all. Rocha darts between abstract art shots of the favelas themselves and shakey footage from the final match (as well as many others, confusing things considerably) with such a lack of care or vision that the entire film ends up a jumbled mess.
It’s clear that Rocha has a subject and an angle in mind. His coverage of the teams’ soulful coaches chanting their players to victory is quite a sight, it’s just such a shame that the footage is so poorly slotted in amongst the random and meaningless visual natterings. What’s frustrating is that there’s so much potential in the characters shown on screen, such passion and determination, and yet this doesn’t always fully come across because of the film’s calamitous structure. Even the sections devoted to simply showing the match and its highlights are disastrous – nothing is clear and so, absolutely nothing is gained.
Ultimately, there’s not really a lot to like about Sunday Ball. The footage that remains in the mere 70-minute cut of the film is mostly visionless and vapid, drifting between pretentious and plain confusing, whilst the only thing that remains of really any interest is one or two of the film’s lesser subjects, whose charisma and soulful speeches add some sense of zest. Otherwise, Sunday Ball is a completely vacant way to spend an hour of your time.
Sunday Ball, directed by Eryk Rocha, is showing as part of the BFI London Film Festival on 11 & 12 October. Tickets are available from whatson.bfi.org.uk.