Many football fans will remember the 2014 World Cup in Brazil for the host country’s ignominious exit from the competition at the semi-final stage. Borne through the tournament on a wave of national pride, the team of superstars may have felt invincible but a 7-1 thrashing at the hands of Germany soon turned euphoria into grief.
In hindsight, such circumstances didn’t make for a great homecoming for Sergio Oksman. He returned to São Paulo immediately before the World Cup to catch up and watch the tournament with his father, Simão, who he hadn’t heard from for twenty years. On Football is his documentary account of their reunion.
At least, that’s what it appears to be. But Sergio and his father actually saw each other a year before, in 2013. As difficult as it is to tell, this film is not purely documentary but a semi-fictional portrayal of their reunion. According to Oksman he and his father are not themselves, as such, but characters based on themselves.
Nevertheless, the relationship we see on screen is as distant and dispassionate as could be expected from a father and son who haven’t been in contact for decades. Sergio and Simão are rarely on screen at the same time; their pact to watch the World Cup together turns into Sergio watching his father watching the football. There is something recognisable in their silences; fiction or not On Football replicates the pace of life, so easily lost when translated to film.
To settle into this pace is to witness a poignant, tentative exploration of this paternal relationship. Through the Oksmans we can see what it means to be a father and what it means to be a son, even if they don’t talk much about it themselves. In the silences they leave can be heard the screams and groans of a nation urging their football team on, an appropriate soundtrack full of love and anguish.