Imagine, Sweden, 1958, the World Cup… this was the World Cup match that changed Brazil forever. After the painful defeat of Brazil by Uruguay in their home turf in 1950, the country went into a collective depression and deeply rooted fear that went beyond the sport. In 1958 the team reached the finals of the World Cup again, and this time with more trepidation than before. The championship match in 1958 was against the Swedes in their home land, making the Brazilian team not just unwelcomed, but ridiculed and belittled. The 1958 match was of importance on many levels, it was not just about fútbol (soccer); it was symbolic of the power dynamic between colonial players, between the conquerors and the conquered, north and south, Black and White.
The 1958 Brazilian team had a young player, the youngest to this day to ever score in a winning championship match, the 17-year-old Edson Arantes do Nascimento, who would be known to the world then and forever as Pelé. Pelé: Birth of a Legend is a nicely made film that tells the story of the greatest soccer player that has ever lived. The film is written and directed by Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist and among the list of Executive Producers is Pelé himself. Pelé even delivers an unexpected cameo as a treat to fans everywhere.
With the 2018 World Cup approaching and with soccer gaining popularity and momentum across the United States, Pelé: Birth of a Legend is a great introduction into the spirit of the game and the history that surrounds the South American giant. The film tells the story of Pelé’s humble beginnings and his family. The film has a beautiful cast. Pelé is played by Kevin de Paula who does an ok job, but the younger Pelé is played by Leonardo Lima Carvalho who does an outstanding job. Pelé’s father, Dondinho, is played by none other than Seu Jorge, who’s screen presence is unforgettable. Seu Jorge is also one of Brazil’s most talented musicians, something that is wasted in this production. In the film, Pelé is surrounded by compelling depictions of friends, family, and community.
Viewers who love Do usual love fútbol will love this movie because it highlights the Beauty of the sport. Viewers who don’t love or know the sport, just may after seeing the dance that is Brazilian fútbol. For Brazilians and other Latin American countries, fútbol is not just about winning, it’s about winning in the most beautiful way possible. Some say that Brazilian fútbol is about the “ginga”, the magical quality that carries with it joy and a spirit of resistance from generations. Fútbol is not just about getting the ball to the goal, it’s about how beautifully one can samba and dribble the ball to the goal. It is the beauty with which Brazil plays that fills the hearts of millions every four years.
Pelé: Birth of a Legend condenses hundreds of years of history of oppression and resistance as the backstory. The film is beautiful and entertaining even though it has some limitations, particularly in the oversimplification of the economic and racial dynamics surrounding places and events. If it weren’t for the fact that it’s about Pelé, that he is involved in the production, and that his story is compelling, the film could easily be dismissed as a predictable triumphant story with a compelling underdog. The story covers a lot of ground, and perhaps this is what makes the biopic deliver an overly prescribed and very controlled narrative. The soundtrack is surprisingly disappointing, because although it fills the frames, it misses and opportunity to combine Brazil’s two greatest passions, fútbol and music. To have Seu Jorge on screen and not his music is tragic. Nevertheless, the film is worth watching because to get a glimpse of the magic of Pelé will make you want to samba.
Presented by: RUSH SOCCER CLUB
Thursday, 5/31 at 5:30 PM