The Power of the Game



Pathe Pictures/Reason Pictures

NEW YORK -- Filmmaker Michael Apted, so adept at alternating between Hollywood blockbusters ("The World Is Not Enough," the upcoming third film in the "Chronicles of Narnia" series) and sociological documentaries (the "7 Up" series), produces another stellar effort in the latter department with this sprawling look at soccer's international appeal. While "The Power of the Game" lacks the strong narrative fueling many similar sports-themed efforts, the worldwide popularity of its subject should ensure plenty of theatrical and ancillary interest. The film recently was showcased at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Befitting its subject's international appeal, the film deals with no fewer than six stories set around the globe. Bookending the film are segments set in South Africa, the host nation for the 2010 World Cup Finals.

That and the film's other sections deal largely with the social and economic impact of the game. The Iranian chapter depicts the sexual segregation policy for matches (also the subject of the recent Iranian film "Offside"). The sole exception, as we see here, is female journalist Mahin Gorji, who has been granted a special dispensation to cover men's soccer.

The Argentine segment deals with a street football team organized by former professional player Fabian Ferraro. Dubbed Defensores de Chacao, its aim is to provide inspiration and economic opportunities to underprivileged young people. Similar efforts are being made in Senegal, where an institute has been established to help counter the "institutional slavery" of young African players promulgated by European teams.

The film also examines in detail the racism toward Third World players so prevalent in European matches, and the frustrating lack of popularity for the game that has prevented more rapid growth in America.

The sprawling story lines give "Power" more of the feel of an extended television newsmagazine program than a feature film. But its intelligent journalistic perspectives ultimately make it of interest to even those not already enamored of the sport.