Last year’s World Cup ended in devastation for Brazil, whose dream of winning soccer’s most coveted prize on home soil was dashed by a historic 7-1 defeat at the hands of eventual winner Germany.
The stakes aren’t as high in the street-soccer documentary Sunday Ball, which captures a far less ignominious championship game between two teams representing their respective favelas, but you wouldn’t know it from the reactions of everyone involved.
Eryk Rocha’s ground-level account takes place in close proximity to Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã stadium, where the World Cup final took place, but couldn’t be further from the purview of FIFA’s crooked higher-ups. Trash talk among competitors and spectators alike is a constant background hum, the informal banter taking the place of traditional talking-head documentary interviews.
You couldn’t even watch a full match in the seventy minutes it takes for Sunday Ball to run its course, and it would have been even shorter were it not for all the slo-mo — Rocha favors the kind of bright, high-intensity photography capable of showing individual drops of water emanating from a sprinkler. At no point prior to the game-deciding penalty shootout do we know the exact score, and rarely do we have an unobstructed view of the actual ball; the filmmakers are more interested in the faces of the players and onlookers. Since there are no Germans around, even the losers aren’t too tear-stained.
Directed by Eryk Rocha
Opens December 11, Cinema Village
Available on Fandor