On Football


Reviewed by: Rebecca Naughten

On Football
"Makes adroit use of the Beautiful Game's resonance in people's lives as a route in to a personal story."

In 2013 - after an estrangement of 20 years - Madrid-based writer-director Sergio Oksman travelled to São Paulo to meet his father Simão. After so much time apart they found it difficult to find points of connection but the conversation kept returning to football - which was something they had shared during Sergio's childhood - and in an attempt to maintain contact, Sergio suggested that he could return to Brazil the following year in order for them to watch the entire World Cup together. That intention - and its unravelling when put into practice - forms the basis of docufiction On Football (O Futebol).

Oksman has made clear in interviews that although both he and his father appear onscreen as themselves, they are also playing characters - a 'version' of each man rather than a straightforward record (if such a thing were possible anyway) of their real interactions. Those interactions are no less awkward for being lightly fictionalised - long silences predominate with much of their shared screen time taking place in Simão's car with the camera situated in the backseat, a position that allows the participants to ignore its presence. We rarely see them actually arrive anywhere, instead they are almost permanently en-route to unspecified destinations - a metaphor perhaps for the limbo of their relationship.

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It quickly becomes apparent that the two will watch very few matches together, but the format of the tournament gives a structure to the film - there is a shot for each day of the tournament and the fixtures appear onscreen as subtitles alongside the date - and in itself generates an expectation of a narrative denouement, especially if you're cognisant of how the tournament went for the Brazilian team. Sport, and maybe football in particular, is also deemed an acceptable outlet for the expression of male emotion - if the film's long silences point to things left unsaid, the seemingly inconsequential chat about team formations and the historical minutiae of Brazilian football nonetheless represents a form of father-son bonding and an opening of communication.

The avoidance of the pair managing to watch a match together is part of the film's line in absurd humour - seen in sequences such as the one where they drive to look at a stadium (for reasons unexplained) and then sit outside in the car (without a radio) trying to determine whether the crowd's roars denote a goal or a near miss (for which side they have no idea). Familial tensions (and events) give a melancholic undertow to proceedings but the humour and Oksman's matter of fact observation of his father's work space and habits also generate a feeling of genuine warmth - things may not turn out as planned but a connection is reestablished.

O Futebol makes adroit use of the Beautiful Game's resonance in people's lives as a route in to a personal story and manages to be affectionate but clear-eyed about the specific private relationship that it depicts - recommended.

Reviewed on: 03 May 2016
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On Football packshot
An estranged father and son reunite after 20 years in order to watch the 2014 World Cup together.

Director: Sergio Oksman

Writer: Sergio Oksman, Carlos Muguiro

Starring: Simão Oksman, Sergio Oksman, Ailton Braga

Year: 2015

Runtime: 70 minutes

Country: Spain


Locarno 2015

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