Campo de Jogo (Sunday Ball) is a kinematic metaphor for Brazilian soccer. Director Eryk Rocha lays bare the intense emotions of favela futebol. He assembles a film that is both documentary and cinematic art. It was shown at New York’s MOMA and is similar to, but much better than, the 2006 art piece on Zidane.
Sometimes the movie is zen-like, showing without showing. Other times, the game environment is frenzied, tribal. The pride of the favela is at stake. The players, the coaches, the fans, and the referee are all in. The fans dance, pray, fight, and rush the pitch repeatedly. Gunshots or firecrackers fire in the background. The players rush the referee. I wonder how anyone has the courage to referee in Brasil.
The soccer is mostly shown without showing. Rocha focuses on faces, the ball, hands, or feet. In a few scenes you sense the speed of the game, a few fouls, a trick or two. But as the game progresses to a penalty shoot-out, and Rocha focuses on the players’ faces, you don’t see where the ball goes. Instead, you literally hear the ball strike the back of the net. Or not. So poetic.
It takes courage to be a favela referee
For me as a referee, the most riveting part of the movie was watching the referee, a man of slight build similar to USSF referee Mark Geiger. Referee scenes are spliced in from more than one game to convey the fearlessness that a ref must possess in order to maintain control of a game like this. I had read how a Brazilian referee had carried a gun during his game for protection, shot a player, and then was decapitated by the fans, his body left hanging from the goal. While this seemed unbelievable to me, after watching Campo de Jogo, I understood how such a thing could happen.
However, as much as I enjoyed Sunday Ball (its English title), I can’t really recommend it to general soccer fans because it is so artsy-smartsy. If you like to think about the game in other ways, or if you follow cinematic art, then this movie is for you.
Note: The English title is “Sunday Ball“, but the literal translation is “field of play” or “field of the game”.
7 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 7