90 Minutos (2020)

Football frames ’90 Minutos’ (2020) of life in Honduras

90 Minutos is an excellent first feature from Pulsar, a young Honduran filmmaking company. Director Aeden O’Connor Agurcia and Writer Daniel Frañó fused 4 disparate stories from Honduran life, each with a connection to football. But soccer is mainly a vehicle to capture movie-goers’ attention in a futbol-crazy country.

The stories are tense dramas or thrillers about bigger issues than football. In the first story, a Honduran trying to get to the US border is drawn into a fight with 2 Mexican fans who are watching their respective countries play on TV.

In the second story, a young woman about to give birth (Andrea Umaña) asks her boyfriend Angel (Brandon López) to give up his lifestyle with a supporters gang. She begs him to think about the future, even though CD Olimpia has been his only joy and passion in a grocery clerk life. In the third story, a rookie journalist tries to get photos of a team’s practice but after multiple equipment and car failures, ends up discovering a drug hideout and then has to flee for his life.

In the last story, Jorge “El Tigre” Ramirez (Ricardo Letelier), a fictional National Team legend, doesn’t see the value of his career or what difference he has made in life. He is invited to a 40th reunion of his old World Cup team, but for him it is just a chance to drink. It is only when he tries to help a neighbor, who is a victim of domestic abuse, that he sees himself a little differently.

What I learned

Sometimes filmmakers create stories where they assume viewers know the background. The film largely takes place in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, and for the most part, it downplays the fact that Honduras is a country where 66% of its 10 million people live in poverty and suffer the world’s highest murder rate. There are 300-400 street gangs in Honduras, mostly in Tegucigalpa, and we see Angel, the Olimpia supporter, alone and targeted by another gang but it wasn’t clear to me why.

In trying to figure out the significance of World Cup 1982, I had to research Honduras’ futbol history. That tournament was their first WC appearance, and the player Héctor Ramón Pecho de Águila Zelaya became a hero for scoring the nation’s first WC goal, but he had to retire shortly thereafter. From what I read, it seemed like Honduras’ qualifying for WC 2010 may have been a greater feel-good moment for the country.

In my research, it surprised me to realize that the San Jose Earthquakes player Victor Bernardez and Sporting Kansas City’s Roger Espinoza played in 2 World Cups, WC 2010 and WC 2014. Bernardez was an awesome player for the Quakes, and I wish they had treated him better at the end of his career with them.

In conclusion

While the supporters group segment has a lot of footage of fans in the stadiums, most of the game play is seen on small TV screens. But as I noted in the beginning, football is a framework for the filmmakers to weave their stories. In quite a few of the narrative films I’ve reviewed, directors have said that they use the game as a metaphor in their dramas. That isn’t quite true in this case, to me it’s more like yin and yang, where both the game and the plot enhance each other.

In addition, this filmmaking team knows how to grip the viewer in a way that reminds me of Director Robert Rodriguez, with great action and very simple dialog on a small budget. The contemplative parts are well done as well. The quality made for a very enjoyable film, and I expect more great stuff from Pulsar.

8 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 8