“It’s neither an autobiographical nor a therapeutic film”
by Alfonso Rivera
- On Football, the acclaimed documentary by Sergio Oksman, is reaching Spanish theatres after taking part in festivals such as Locarno, Seville and Márgenes
On Football [+see also:
interview: Sergio Oksman
film profile], the much-lauded documentary by Sergio Oksman, is now reaching cinemas in Spain after taking part in gatherings such as Locarno, Seville and Márgenes. We chatted to the director, a Brazilian now settled in Spain, who worked with Elías Querejeta for years and made a huge splash with his short film A Story for the Modlins, which won the Goya Award in 2013, and garnered prizes at such festivals as Tallinn, Clermont-Ferrand and Karlovy Vary.
Cineuropa: On Football is partly a portrait of your home country.
Sergio Oksman: I came to Spain in 1998. All my points of reference are here. For me, Sao Paulo is already like a literary land. Spain is my home turf, and Brazil is something else: it’s what you see in the film – grey, inhospitable, sad and soulless.
What drove you to meet up with your father again, as we see in the movie?
I had spent years with Carlos Muguiro, the co-writer of On Football, working on family archive material, and I was afraid that I would see myself condemned to follow the blueprint of the men in the family. In 2013 I wanted to know more about him, and we arranged to meet: straight away he saw that I wasn’t judging him, and nor was I there to settle scores. It was interesting when I realised that he is a guy I haven’t lived with for 40 years, but we structure our sentences in the same way and we are alike: there’s something innate there. But I didn’t want to make an autobiographical or a therapeutic film, which there’s now a whole barrage of: my story doesn’t necessarily have to interest anyone. If I’ve been good at constructing it, it will be a good movie.
Football is a channel of communication between a father and son: a neutral place where you can talk.
In an encounter with this type of man, the exchanging of information is a skewed form of affection: this was what happened with my father and football. And in Brazil, football is important as the structure for a modern mythology: a young country where Pelé is king. Football was also a guideline to make a type of film: the rectangle with two symmetrical teams, but with luck playing a role. Here what it’s all about is controlled luck. Reality doesn’t exist; we came up with a mousetrap and reality wandered into it, but you can’t control the rain. At the beginning, when it started to rain, I thought it had ruined the shot, but on the contrary, it actually enhanced the film. I would like to stress that On Football was written during the editing. It’s a highly constructed film, everything is chosen, every single element is put there for a reason.
So… how much of an experiment was the shoot?
I never know what I’m doing: you learn how to make a film by shooting it. Every documentary is a mise-en-scène. If I ever do pure fiction, I’ll use someone real like my father.
The light in the movie conveys a peculiar feeling…
I decided to shoot it like an eclipse because time stood still for a month in my city, for the celebration of the World Cup. We wanted a pastel colour, understated and grey, just like my father, who was a dull man. Everything was thought out: we placed the camera very openly so that either of the characters could escape from the film, if they wanted to. The camera is the observer: if the characters get bored, so does the viewer. This is a film that demands a great deal of the viewer, who has to do his or her bit: that is both the risk and the achievement of On Football.
Will you continue presenting the film at the festivals that request it?
After the release, I want to shoot the next movie because after a film like this, one needs to be paid for one’s work; it’s all very well making this kind of film, but you have to be able to live off something: I wish I could make films like this one, but I have to pay the bills somehow.
(Translated from Spanish)