18 July 2014 | chaos-rampant
Ethnography around a ball
Something thrilled me about the way I came to this little film. I saw it with memories of the Brazilian WC still fresh, the final was a few nights ago. I was planning a cinematic sojourn to Brazil to coincide with the games, in the end I thought best to leave it for after, soak up one experience before traveling back to the other. I will follow this through a series of viewings.
So, a contrast here amazed me. In the recent WC, the games dazzled, the faces, the festivity, the slow-motion of football heroics. It was a good cup. Outside another Brazil simmered and cried out, poor and downtrodden. And then through this film, the link is the same, football, fame, passion, I land in a different time and place.
It follows a superstar of his time in a country obsessed with this thing, he was long before my time but the name was passed on, Garrincha. There is the requisite footage both in the field and out, a few words to the camera about how it feels to be an idol (it's a drag, he says), but that's not the point.
It's not greatly in depth, l suppose that it was a popular film meant to be seen countrywide for the man and his skill after all. There's a run-through the '62 WC win, still fresh then. The skill is there after all these years, a naive skill underpinned by the desire to move, to dance around a ball, to feign and thrust. Pure samba. He would be quickly hacked down by defenders these days.
No, if you see this, it will be as an ethnographic study of place and people. More interesting this to me, that through this man, in the background all around him, we can discern and follow the passions and joys of the people, that Brazilian life is revealed in this way.
In weekdays the superstar relaxes in his small hometown outside Rio, this brings us a step closer, sometimes with a game of football in the local makeshift field, a patch of sunbaked dirt really, which everyone including kids plays together barefoot under the sun. Imagine Messi now risking his multimillion legs in this way.
He had famously crooked legs, a team physician had him wear appendages of some sort - but back home, he would take them off and go visit his witch doctor for a cure, an old woman. Superstition is later shown to be rampant among players and press, indicative of a broader facet of life.
More cool facts are upturned. In his hometown, the local mill owns every house and lets it to the people who most of them work there. A visit to Garrincha's home, gifted to him by the government, gives a picture of what being affluent in Brazil meant at the time; a TV set in the livingroom, his daughters in polkadot Western dresses dancing to the latest Nat King Cole hit on the gramophone. Politicians will come to that home near elections to solicit his name.
And of course the violence in the field, the game as war. There's something about football which cannot be explained any other way, other sports have a faster pace and are at least as athletic. It is more than about release, it is release in the scope that football affords. Brazil is the ideal place to make this clear. A football stadium is comparatively huge, even more so in Brazil, the field is a battlefield, the very structure erected around a ball being kicked invokes the narrative and reaction.