As much as I like parts of the film Eighteam, much of it circumnavigates the tragic plane crash that killed almost the entire Zambian National Team on April 27, 1993, off the coast of Gabon.
There are interviews with people who were fortunate enough to have missed the fatal flight. One of them is on-again off-again team captain Kalusha Bwalya, who went on to become President of the Zambian Football Association and a member of the CAF (the FIFA Confederation of African Football). Through Bwalya, you get a sense of what it was like to have a national team struck down. And then to rebuild it in a matter of weeks.
Writer-Director Juan Rodriguez-Briso brings in football commentator Dennis Liwewe, and with his context, and game/crowd footage, you experience the 1993 team loss, as well as the accomplishment and healing of the 2012 team triumph at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Most of the 2012 players are too young to have been affected by the tragedy, so the historical significance of Zambia’s returning to Gabon in 2012 is imparted on them by a visit to the crash area. While the Final outcome probably brought closure and redemption for older Zambians, it would have been nice to hear that from relatives of the victims.
The film focuses on the 2012 team
So while I appreciated learning about the disaster, I also feel that this film short-changed the 1993 team in order to focus on the 2012 team. Even in researching the disaster, I discovered that the birthdates of four of the 1993 players do not appear to be published. If a country is honoring someone who perished in its service, shouldn’t it at least try to find out when that person was born?
Eighteam (also known as E18team) has a lot of page titles and screen graphics which are somewhat jarring. The sub-titles are out of sync, and not all of the Italian is translated/captioned. In addition, Rodriguez-Briso intersperses the narrative with every individual penalty kick (18 total) taken in the 2012 AFCON Final shootout. Before the last kick though, the Director travels back to video clips that show how the Chiopolopolos got to the Final. That and the shootout coverage feel like overly-long gimmicks to extend the film, if not the drama.
In comparison, the MLS 2015 Playoffs had an 11-round shootout between the Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City. This 22-kick shootout is an entertaining video, and it’s only 3 minutes long.
Overall, the selection of football footage is very good, especially if you like penalty kicks. But one of the things I like most about Eighteam is the singing by the 2012 players, especially a song that may be entitled “Kalombo Mwane”. There is a 24-second excerpt on Youtube, but I sure wish their singing was available on iTunes! And for some team dancing, twerking, and ab flashing, watch this 3-minute video.
6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6