Wade on Birmingham

Sidewalk 2010: Pickup games people play


Movie review: ‘Pelada’

By Kenn McCracken

Review at a glance: Soccer doc “Pelada” showcases pickup games around the world, but needs more local flavor at each stop.


A pickup soccer game in Marseille, France,  from “Pelada.”

As an on-again, off-again soccer player during the past 25 years, I was really looking forward to seeing “Pelada.” This documentary about pickup soccer games around the globe feels hollow and lacking, in spite of all that it does well.

Wade on Birmingham - Sidewalk Moving Picture FestivalThe movie screens Sept. 25 at the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival.

The main problem is that the film feels watered down. For all the marketed focus on soccer across geographical, political and religious borders, the point in the end seems to be more of a life lesson for stars Gwendolyn Oxenham and Luke Boughen, who also serve as two of the four co-directors. That split in the framing makes the movie inspirational and fun, but also perhaps sets expectations a little off-base.

The filmmakers, who have some experience playing in college, wisely avoid going too deep into the intricacies of the sport, but they seem to gloss over a lot of seemingly important or interesting cultural information.  The narration reads glossy and flat, and its presentation doesn’t help at all.

However, the editing is skillful, the soundtrack is engaging without becoming distracting, and the pacing is strong. The result is a film that sags under the weight of its featured subjects but remains afloat until the end.

With all the reality TV shows out there, it’s surprising that no one has “Pelada” as weekly series. The film views much like a pickup soccer version of the Travel Channel show, “Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations,” with a hint of cultural background providing the backdrop for an area’s version of pickup soccer.

Spreading both that exploration as well as the narrators’ stories would have seemed much more natural, in an expanded version. As it is, “Pelada” is well worth seeing for fans of soccer and the international varations thereof, but for those looking for a film with heft or depth will likely be disappointed.

Kenn McCrackenKenn McCracken (@insomniactive) is a director and an award-winning screenwriter (2005 Sidewalk Sidewrite grand prize, “Muckfuppet”). His song “Theme for an Imaginary Revenge” was used in the music video of the same title, screening at Sidewalk on Sept. 25.

He’s also a writer (Birmingham Weekly, Spin.com, mental_floss), a bassist for the Exhibit(s), an eight-time cat juggling champion for Malta and an ongoing experiment in sleep deprivation. He occasionally steals your best ideas to claim at his blog, Dairy of a Madman.

“Pelada” will screen at 4:45 p.m. Sept. 25 at the Carver Theatre.

Video: “Pelada” trailer

Video: Interview with “Pelada” filmmakers Luke Boughen,
Rebekah Fergusson, Gwendolyn Oxenham and Ryan White.


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