Surprise, surprise. The FIFA Movie — otherwise known as F2014, Film 2014, A Men’s Dream, and finally, United Passions — is not bad. Yes, the movie is a conceit, and yes, FIFA shamelessly portrays English football bureaucrats as racist, sexist, and classist “English Bastards”.
To make sure we get those messages, they are repeated a few times. But can you watch it and withhold your anger towards FIFA’s epidemic corruption?
Can you stop asking yourself if Gerard Depardieu is preparing for his next role as obese Governor Chris Christie?
If you can keep such distractions from your mind, then, it is not a bad movie. From a technical standpoint.
Sam Neill captures the imperiousness of Joao Havelange, and Tim Roth portrays the humble Uriah facade and mannerisms of Sepp Blatter. The cinematography is good, and the football content is fairly extensive for a soccer movie.
The question in my mind is, why did Sepp make this movie? From all accounts, it appears to have been his personal decision. To me, he wanted fans to see how football is run, that money has always greased the skids since the first World Cup, and that FIFA has always had a history of pay to play. E.g., the movie is not shy in showing how African votes were won. Sepp wants us to know that these dealings are not corruption, they are just FIFA business as usual: if only we and the FBI could see FIFA the way he does…
What drives a celebrity or autocrat to commission his or her own biopic? In today’s narcissistic media-focused reality-TV world, celebrities may do so to extend their brand. But historically, autocrats and politicians have done biopics for propagrandistic purposes. Check out this list of celebrity/autocrat biopics:
- Joseph Stalin – The Fall of Berlin
- Adolph Hitler – Triumph of the Will
- Sarah Palin – The Undefeated
- Justin Bieber – Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
- LeBron James – Survivor’s Remorse
- Marshawn Lynch – Family First: The Marshawn Lynch Story
- Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov – Possible upcoming film (I’m not sure if all the news releases are a joke)
On Sepp’s self-aggrandizing movie, director Frederic Auburtin said that he surreptitiously inserted “ironic parts” to convey FIFA’s corruption. He did this with an actor’s look or with English language whose American meanings escaped Sepp’s watchful review:
- When Sepp first joins FIFA, his friend asks: Does it pay well?
- Sepp: “Depends on my results”
- Sepp to Adidas’ Horst Dassler: Why do you want to do biz with us?
- Dassler: “I believe in your federation. And I know you will return the favor someday. All I want is one thing in return. I want you to make our ball the star of the next WC.” The Tango ball.
- At an African CAF meeting:
- Fictional Moussa Sogou: “I have faith in our president. But so far it is just words, words, words. I have yet to see anything more concrete. … But you should understand that Africa has changed. We expect more, much more now. If you want our loyalty, you’re going to have to earn it.“
- Sepp: “We want to work with you. Set up development programs. Do more than simply supply sports equipment. We will honor our promises to you.”
- Havelange after anointing Sepp Secretary General in 1981:
- “An institution like ours cannot run on good intentions alone. We need money. We need a great deal of money.”
- In 1982, Sepp tells Dassler, “We’re in the red, Horst, we’re up to our necks”. Sepp wrote a personal check for 200,000 swiss francs to cover payroll. He suspects where the money went but doesn’t know.
- In a 2002 meeting with Sepp, Havelange complains of the injustice of the charges against himself, but expects to be exonerated.
- Havelange: “I’m afraid that we have disappointed you.”
- Sepp: “I knew I wasn’t joining the chess club”.
- In 2002, fictional journalist Edgar Wilcox meets with Sepp to discuss financial issues that preceded his presidency, before publishing a fictional “Big Game: The Well Hidden secrets of FIFA” (a likely reference to Andrew Jennings’ 2006 book)
- Sepp: “I’m not responsible for what might have happened prior to my presidency, which you choose to call embezzlement. … In every association there are honest people and there are traitors. … Everything I’ve done up until this point has been for the good of football, for the good of family. Family that I will protect at all costs.“
- Wilcox: “Even those members who are purported liars, thieves?“
- Sepp: “Purported” (smiles)
- The Exec committee asks Sepp to resign, but he refuses. They say they have enough evidence to force him to resign, and that way he can avoid prison.
- Sepp: “Well even if that were true, mine would not be the only head to roll.”
- He says he’ll see them in Seoul at the 2002 extraordinary conference, where he is subsequently re-elected
In true teflon Blatter fashion throughout this movie, except for the 2002 exec committee scene, Sepp never responds to nor questions any unethical behaviors. He just turns and walks away as if nothing has even been said.
Would I recommend this movie? No, because if I had my way, every person in the world would boycott every FIFA product and sponsor until Sepp vacates the office, not just tenders his resignation. But I threw FIFA an extra $8 just so I could write this review.
BTW, this movie was designed to be released for WC 2014, but it was not shown in Brazil. It is obviously because the film dedicated 5 minutes to the Maracanazo. Ouch!
Gerard Depardieu followed with another soccer movie in 2016: La Dream Team
SoccerMovieMom Rating = 6 for untruths and conceit