Following director Sergio Oksman going back to Brazil and trying to reconnect with his estranged father, after decades of being physically and emotionally apart, would always be a delicate position of spectatorship; one of intimacy, voyeurism and, potentially, discomfort. That On Football unfolds with such dramatic restraint and refinement – though at any point indulging in the embellishment or over stylizing of its subjects – is not only necessary to allow its audience to feel part of it and still quietly detached, in an observational position, but also a fair translation of Sergio’s inherent position as he struggles to overcome both the time produced void between the two and the macho culture suppression of emotions, even between a father and his son.
Being football, simultaneously, a traditional cornerstone in male relationships and the strongest of the childhood memories Sergio has of his time with Simão, his dad, it’s only natural for the 2014 World Cup, just round the corner when the two first meet again in 2013, to be the excuse for him to come back and get closer to both Simão and the reasons for their estrangement. But while the film formally mirrors the schedule of the World Cup – loosely structuring it in chapters as every day of Sergio’s stay is either a match or a rest day in the Cup – the uneventful nature of their interaction creates a sharp contrast with the torrent of emotions we came to associate with football, particularly in Brazil and in a major event like this. Mostly made of silence while they ride dad’s car or Sergio’s dismissed attempts to go back the memory lane, their time together seems suspended and the feeling that the event is happening elsewhere feeds the sense of desolation we progressively observe in Simão’s life while also informing the backdrop of this story, tackling on the issues of poverty and social gap, unavoidable in Brazilian society.