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Awesome: 33.33%
Worth A Look66.67%
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1 review, 6 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"Soccer for all."
4 stars

SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2010: "Pelada" means "naked" in Portuguese, but this is not that kind of movie. Instead, the title refers to a slang term for pick-up soccer, fitting because when played that way, it's often the game stripped down to its essentials: Kicking a ball around whatever open space is available, improvising goal markers. Because of the game's fervent and worldwide popularity, there are peladas going on all the time - and the filmmakers were looking to get into as many of them as they could.

(Yes, I'll be using "soccer" despite the fact that the game is called "football", "futbol", or some variation wherever they go. I'm American, and so are they. Laugh at us now, everyone else, and get it over with.)

As the film opens, Luke Boughen and Gwendolyn Oxenham are self-described has-beens despite only being in their mid-twenties. They were star athletes in college, but injuries and the end of the WUSA kept the pros from calling their names. Gwendolyn is pursuing writing and Luke is hanging billboards while contemplating law school, until discussions with filmmaker friends hatch the idea of a world tour, seeing how soccer is played by people around the world. The project comes together, and they're off, first heading to South America, then Europe, Africa, East Asia, and finally Iran.

This is an awesome thing to do, and the only people who don't wish that they'd done something like it when they were younger are the ones who were who actually did or don't have very much "when they were younger" to look back on. They've done their research, so they know about some games that they can't miss, such as a regular Sunday afternoon game in Rio played mainly by folks old enough to be their fathers. Other times, though, they'll be caught by surprise, such as when they find a bunch of folks capable of some fancy footwork in Shanghai (China does not have a very distinguished history in the international game).

They do, however, constantly find neat little stories to tell. They go into San Pedro Prison, a virtual city-within-a-city in La Paz, and find a pitch in Nairobi called "Austin's Field", after the man who spearheaded the effort to reclaim what was previously a garbage dump and still gives lessons to kids. They play on the tops of skyscrapers in Tokyo, meet up with old teammates in Rio and Germany, and face having their tapes confiscated when someone phones the government about Gwendolyn playing in a game with men in Tehran.

And, interestingly, we see them grow a little. As the film starts, Luke and Gwendolyn are having trouble conceiving of themselves as anything but athletes, but their journey lets them see both kids with the same kind of drive and obsession that they had and old friends who have settled into their post-playing lives with a certain amount of contentment. Their time in Iran also serves as a bit of a wake-up call, as they have to confront a situation where doing something small and harmless can potentially have unfortunate consequences. As much as the film is about celebrating the love of soccer around the world, it's also about its stars confronting their adult lives.

If this is an extended last hurrah, they do a fine job capturing it. As well as being the film's stars and subjects, Luke and Gwendolyn are also listed as directors (along with Rebeka Fergusson and Ryan White). Much of it is basically their home movies, but between themselves and the professionals, they put together a movie that looks good, but also relaxed and spontaneous. They come off well in their narration, too, doing a nice job of forming bonds with both the people they meet and the audience. More than usual, we feel like we're along for the ride, as we see times when something didn't provide great footage, or they whip out the camera to show security guards at the Euro Cup that they were sold counterfeit tickets.

We should all be fortunate enough to go on this sort of road trip once or twice in our lives, even if it ties into another passion. This couple did, and captured it on camera pretty darn well.

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originally posted: 05/01/10 08:17:30
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Independent Film Festival Boston 2010 For more in the Independent Film Festival Boston 2010 series, click here.

User Comments

4/21/12 david rojo me encanto el buen trabajo y dedicacion que le an puesto. Felicidades y gracias.(great job) 5 stars
10/30/11 Steph G. I loved the movie and I never played soccer, only softball. 5 stars
10/07/11 Chris Daugherty Wonderful movie captures the worlds game perfectly 5 stars
9/02/10 Chris Van Duin Great movie for soccer junkies and those that appreciate various cultures. 5 stars
5/14/10 Nick Great movie. Great concpet. Great stories from each country. 4 stars
4/14/10 Gary Pinnell Pelada unaccountably captures our attention, even though we know nothing about soccer. 4 stars
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Directed by
  Luke Boughen
  Rebekah Fergusson
  Gwendolyn Oxenham
  Ryan White

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