Nossa Chape (2018)

‘Nossa Chape’ (2018) a view inside the club

Nossa Chape is the Zimbalist Brothers’ film on the greatest sports tragedy of the 21st Century. The documentary covers the crash of the charter flight that carried the Brazilian Chapecoense team to Medellin, Colombia, and the struggle of the club and the survivors to rebuild. The film arrived on the Fox Sports channel in time for WC 2018, about 18 months after the Nov-28-2016 plane crash.

Watching Nossa Chape, I had to compare it to Setenta Sete (77), which is a 1-hour documentary that aired one year ago on ESPN in Jun-2017, about 6 months after the plane crash. ESPN is re-airing an updated version of the show during WC 2018, but otherwise you must subscribe to ESPN+ to watch it.

The ESPN film about Chapecoense is more emotion-packed than the Fox film. ESPN focuses on the players and their families, making their sorrow and loss palpable. For Fox, on the other hand, the Zimbalists concentrate on the revival of the club and bringing it back to a winning state. Amongst the 71 who perished, the club loses 10 of its 14 board members, 19 players, and the coaching and medical staff. The remaining board reassembles the team and club in time for their first match on Feb-4-2017.

Nossa Chape shows details inside the club

Nossa Chape shows the rehabilitation of the players, as well as the anger and frustration that follows as the club recovers but leaves survivors behind. To their credit, the Zimbalists show the negatives: there are no statues or photos or recognition of the lives lost. There is no workers compensation, no ongoing support for widows and children, no mental health therapy for any of the survivors. Clearly two of the players, who did not travel with the team that day, suffer from survivor’s guilt.

In addition, the crew films the Board and President in action, as they coldly discuss how to handle the widows and families. One director complains that “The families who received the most are the least satisfied.” They decide not to publish the individual amounts that have been paid, which were privately negotiated. Instead, they will publish the total paid out. A sad truth of the situation is that there is no insurance coverage. LaMia, the charter airplane that flew an illegal flight plan and crashed because it ran out of fuel, went down with its owner, who was also the pilot.

In another session, the Club President proudly tells his marketing team that they must internationalize their brand because they are the sixth most mentioned team in the country. In fact, you can become a World Friend and help their reconstruction process.

At one point, one of the 3 players who survived the crash is somewhat resigned as he acknowledges that their role is to be trotted out and represent the team’s image. One returns to playing (Alan Ruschel), one hopes to play again (Hélio Neto), and the third (Jakson Follmann, who lost his lower leg) is a club ambassador.

The final extra that Nossa Chape includes is the survivors’ visit to the crash site and a reunion with their rescuers. The players realize how impossible it is that they survived. How do you put that in the context of soccer? I don’t think you can.

There is a lot of futebol in this film, because the directors cover quite a bit of the club’s 2017 season, as well as the two games for the Recopa Copa Sudamericana final.

For a really great article on the tragedy, which was the basis for Setenta y Sete, read the Jun-2017 ESPN article by Sam Borden. It was updated with a followup around a year post-accident.

Update on May-5-2019: I reviewed a third film about the disaster, Forever Chape (Para Sempre Chape). It has a more South American approach and is worth watching even if you saw the other 2 films.

For other films about the aftermath of airplane tragedies with soccer teams, check out United and Eighteam.

6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6