Fresh-faced college grads Luke Boughen and Gwendolyn Oxenham are having a difficult time letting go. From grade school through college, soccer has been at the center of their lives. But those days are far behind them.
Now, they are two kids wondering what they should do next. For Luke, it might be law school. That’s what his family wants. For Gwendolyn, it’s a career as a writer. Or at least that’s what she tells herself when she’s not dreaming about one last shot at the pros.
However, before they can move on, they need to have one final whirlwind fling with their mistress, soccer itself. And so they embark on a world tour, hitting futbol hotspots in such far-flung locales as Kenya, Tokyo, and Iran, where they come face to face with people who are just as fanatical about the sport as they are. And the only way to do that is to meet those diehard fans on the field.
So begins Pelada, a documentary film shot by Boughen, Oxenham, Rebekah Fergusson, and Ryan White, which focuses not on the superstar athletes and their loyal legions, but on the men and women who play pick up soccer games on concrete courts, cramped city streets, and trash-covered fields. (“Pelada” is Portuguese word meaning “naked,” and it refers to the fast, bare-bones game played by these pick-up futbol fiends.) Some are moonshiners. Others are construction workers. Firemen. EMTs. Senior citizens. Prisoners. But they all love the game and refuse to let that love die. And it’s these players who give Pelada its energy. It is their stories that give the documentary life.
Unfortunately, the film focuses far too much on the young couple, Luke and Gwendolyn, a likable enough but ultimately bland duo. Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock they are not. Pelada would have been better served if it had focused solely on the players that Luke and Gwendolyn encounter. But that is not the documentary that has been made.
Pelada is ultimately a film about a young couple whose hearts have been broken by the cruel penalty kick of fate. But by the end of the documentary, Luke and Gwendolyn learn to appreciate this other side of soccer, the side away from the well-manicured fields, the cheers of the crowd, the promise of a professional career. They come to understand that even though their dreams of playing in the big leagues didn’t come true, soccer can still be a very important part of their lives.
On June 19, the night of the showing, Madra Rua Irish Pub will offer $3 pints to those with valid tickets to see Pelada at Olde North Charleston Picture House; tickets are $7 and can be purchased at the door of the Picture House. Members of the Greater Park Circle Film Society can reserve tickets, which will be $2. All ticket proceeds go to the filmmakers to help them finish their post-production work.