SIFF Film Review – The Beautiful Game

The Beautiful Game Movie PosterWhen the likes of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, F.W. de Klerk, Femi Kuti, and Kofi Annan say that lessons about the world can be learned from soccer (or futbol), we should all listen. The new documentary The Beautiful Game, which is playing at the Seattle International Film Festival, begins with testimonials from these luminaries, as well as others. This film profiles the worldwide appeal of the sport and how important it particularly is to the people all throughout Africa. Some of the best players from Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, South Africa, and Egypt tell of how they learned to be better people while playing the game.

Most of the movie focuses on young players from several countries attempting to improve their lives through futbol. This leads to tales of both inspiration and heartbreak. A coach who uses a makeshift tree limb as a crutch leads a group of disabled and special needs children in learning the game. Children with epilepsy and other ailments are shown gaining confidence by being able to participate. Another young player from Ghana is recruited to travel abroad, only to lose all of his money to his manager, who strands him in another country. He is determined to make his way to the European leagues, because his family is depending on him. A determined 11-year-old girl becomes possibly the youngest President of a youth soccer organization in the world. This movie brims with tales of how this sport impacts average lives.

The most impactful highlight shows how soccer united the fractured Ivory Coast during their civil war. While factions were in a bloody battle, during the World Cup the leader of their team the Elephants, Didier Drogba, went on TV and pleaded for his country to stop fighting. Because the Elephants and Drogba in particular were so popular, it began the peace process that eventually ended the war.

With soccer as a conduit, The Beautiful Game shows a part of the world we don’t often see. These players come from towns where they live in small wooden shacks and ghettos. One player has to wade through ankle-deep water that runs throughout his neighborhood just to get to his front door. But these folks have such a love of the game that they tightly wind plastic shopping bags into a ball so their children can use the ball to learn the sport as toddlers. It is an amazing amount of dedication in what could be depressing circumstances.

The Beautiful Game 1

It would have been nice to see a bit more of what exactly in the sport inspires such fervor. The thrust of the film is the impact this sport has on individual lives. But seeing what exactly Africans are getting out of the game itself would have been interesting.

Futbol is the most popular sport in the world. Many have attributed this to the fact that it has a very low price of entry. All you need to play is one ball and some flat land. Large numbers can play at once using just that ball and no special equipment. Watching The Beautiful Game, you can see that to many living in dire circumstances, it is much more than a game. It is a source of inspiration and pride.

The Beautiful Game screens June 2nd at 12:30 PM at SIFF Cinema Uptown.

Final Grade: B+


I'm a family man who got his Drama degree back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth and now works at a desk. I love movies of all kinds, and I am still working my way through the list of 1001 movies you must see before you die.

Follow him on Twitter or email him.

View all posts by this author