SXSW FILM 2010
By Don Simpson | March 27, 2010
Directors: Luke Boughen, Rebekah Fergusson, Gwendolyn Oxenham, Ryan White
Co-directors Luke Boughen and Gwendolyn Oxenham were once U.S. collegiate soccer stars with dreams of going professional. When they realized that their dreams were not going to be recognized, they found themselves forced to transfer their love for soccer to other possible careers – a compromise that wore very heavily upon each of them.
Rather than sulking about their new career paths, they start applying for research grants. Eventually they receive one, and Boughen and Oxenham commence a worldwide journey in search of pick-up soccer matches – known in Brazil (the first country they visit) as pelada (which means “naked” in Portuguese). They travel to 25 countries in all, playing pick-up soccer matches with locals in alleys, side streets, dirt fields, concrete courts and a prison yard. Yes, I said a prison yard – that would be in Bolivia – which was one of the more captivating segments of Pelada; the matches that they participate in between Jews and Muslims in Israel and Oxenham’s attempts to play soccer in Iran were equally astonishing. Often, they can barely communicate verbally with the natives; but the universal language of soccer is able to open up all kinds of doors for Boughen and Oxenham as they immerse themselves into even the most foreign of cultures. The resulting story resonates as a deeply personal journey that is both educational and objective across all political, religious and ethnic lines.
Pelada is by no means just a documentary about soccer; it just as much about playing with the cards you are dealt – and figuring out career compromises that you can be happy with. In a world where so few people make their living working in careers that actually fulfill their lifelong dreams, Pelada rings very honest and true.
Boughen and Oxenham’s film is an extremely modest production (they brought along a very small crew consisting of Rebekah Fergusson and Ryan White – who function as their co-directors and cinematographers); it is exactly what it purports to be – an intimate home movie – which it exactly what makes it so effective.