Tuesday, 5 April 2011


(Ismael Larrain , Juan Ignacio Sabatini & Juan Pablo Sallatto, 2010)
When Documentary-makers Larrain, Sabatini and Sallatto started filming behind the scenes with the Chilean National Football Team in 2005 they had a story of questionable drama and interest. This was a squad arguably lacking any truly outstanding players, who had enjoyed no recent competitive success, not reaching a World Cup Finals since 1998, been humiliated at successive Copa Americas, were Ill-disciplined, and full of players with big egos who kept their places despite their own poor form. Where was the story here?
The story was around the corner. After another miserable failure to qualify for a World Cup - Germany 2006 - Chile appointed Argentine Marclo Bielsa as National Team Coach. Bielsa, something of a visionary, revolutionised the Chilean squad, dropping most of the ageing under performers and replacing them with young, largely untested talent from the Youth Teams. He made them play a high tempo, high energy, high risk attacking football. At first, it didnt really work. This film records a few early defeats, Bielsa stoic in press conferences, the players heads hanging in the dressing room. Then it does work. Chile start to play well, and they start to win.
The film captures the growing confidence of this youthful squad and brilliantly records it's transmission to the stands as Chilean supporters start to believe and eventually to celebrate euphorically.
For a football fan, it's a treat, with plenty of great footage of games and peeks at what life is like in training, on the bus to matches, and in the tunnel heading out into a Cauldron of thousands of maniacal fans. But cinematically it's worthwhile too; elliptical and often poetic, funny in it's brief interviews with taxi drivers and men in the street and it's sidebar focus on an eccentric Football correspondent from a local radio station in Chile's Far South. There is also a crucial dose of serious consideration into why football means what it does in Chile, the political and social dimensions it has acquired, best articulated in interviews with football intellectuals like Eduardo Galeano and Jorge Valdano.
You even get to see Bielsa smile. Once.

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