En el Séptimo Día (2017)

Immigrants and soccer ‘En el Séptimo Día’ (2017)

En el Séptimo Día is more of an art film with a message from Director Jim McKay. It originated with a script that he drafted in 2001. The story is an intimate portrait of Mexican immigrant life, pulled from his present neighborhood in Brooklyn as well as his experience years ago, when he worked in a Noe Valley restaurant in San Francisco and watched movies at the Roxie Theater.

He went on to become a very successful director in American television, but returned to this film when he had “saved up enough of his own money”.

In the film, José (Fernando Cardona) is an undocumented immigrant from Puebla, Mexico. He lives in an apartment crowded with 7-8 similar men from Puebla, although José has one of the better jobs, delivering restaurant orders by bicycle. The guys play together as team Puebla in a small-sided Sunday league in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park.

Jose is the best player, but his dilemma is that he has a week to find a substitute for himself for the league final. The restaurant preempts his Sunday day off, which means he can’t play. A hard worker but unable to be open about any conflict, it falls to his teammates and a stranger to come up with a solution of sorts.

The making of the film and immigrant life

I was fortunate to watch a screening at the Roxie Theater, where Director McKay provided a short Q&A. A fan of Iranian cinema, McKay cast all of the immigrant roles with non-professional actors recruited from the area. About half of the teammates are actually from Puebla. (This technique was used in the Iranian soccer film Offside).

The film was shot in the summer of 2016, which preceded Trump’s election and his subsequent crackdown on immigration and travel. As a result, some of the story is anachronistic because it was written at a time of porous borders and a less ruthless ICE.

This film is not my personal cup of tea, but it must be appreciated for its portrayal of immigrant life in the USA. Sometimes we watch films like The Other Kids and are affected by the deplorable conditions of poverty in Africa. But millions face only a marginally better existence here in the great country of America.

We just choose to ignore such struggles, as when we walk by a street singer with an open instrument case or an old woman pulling huge garbage bags of cans and bottles.

“The baddest soccer”

The soccer in the film, as one of the screening attendees expressed, is some of “the baddest soccer” you will ever see on film. McKay laughed, saying he selected the cast based on acting ability rather than football skills. Which is also why Jose’s teammates are mostly rather old and overweight.

In case you are worried about the non-professionals riding delivery bicycles throughout New York City, the scene with the bike accident utilized a stuntman. McKay had wanted to see the chow mein flying everywhere, but satisfied himself with a single take. Also, when José is wearing an NYCFC jersey, it is not product placement, it is just the actor’s own apparel.

6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6