Some people take enormous efforts to make sure they are able to watch a big match. For the soccer fans in The Great Match (La Gran Final), who are all eager to catch what will turn out to be the final between Germany and Brazil in the 2002 World Cup, it is not about booking airline tickets and confirming hotel reservations, or even about picking a sports bar at which to watch the big event. Their issues reach another level altogether. They need to find electricity and some means, in their very remote locations, to receive television signals.
The Great Match is a bizarre little film sporting a low-budget docu-drama format that somehow manages to leave plenty of room for comedy. The title might mislead you into thinking this is a soccer film, and certainly, the force that drives virtually every character in the film is the desire to watch the final game on television, but soccer madness is nothing more than a premise to take a humorous peek into the lives of people in some of the most remote regions on the planet.
The film opens with panoramic shots of the Mongolian steppe and tribesmen hunting foxes with eagles on their wrist. They ride their shaggy ponies through the vast barren landscape, and engage in banter about the hunt. It could be the opening for an anthropological study of nomads seen on the Discovery Channel. But of course, it is not. “Do you think we’ll have time to get back for the game,” one of the nomads shouts. The others answer by picking up the pace. They have to get back in time to move camp to a location where they can (illegally) tap into the government electricity supply to power their ancient color television.
THE GREAT MATCH (LA GRAN FINAL)
DIRECTED BY: GERARDO OLIVARES
STARRING: A NON-PROFESSIONAL CAST OF AMAZONIAN, MONGOLIAN AND TUAREG TRIBESMEN
RUNNING TIME: 88 MINUTES
LANGUAGES: TUPI, TAMASHEK AND MONGOLIAN, WITH CHINESE SUBTITLES
TAIWAN RELEASE: TODAY
There is no place too remote for the beautiful game and a sense of international rivalry. But the community solidarity that it generates does not always permeate. The nomads are met by a military patrol and the lieutenant in charge wants to slap them with a fine for stealing electricity. The situation improves, though, when the patrol sits down to watch the game with the nomads and helps settle a dispute about the relative quality of the two teams. Whether they get to watch the final minutes of the game all depends on an uncertain supply of electricity from Russia.
Cut to the Sahara desert and the sand-blown and waterless wastes of Niger. A caravan of Tuareg tribesmen are pushing their camels hard to reach a place called “the tree,” a single steel pylon standing in the desert. It is the only location where they might be able to get reception for their television. They worry that they’ll not make it in time and persuade a passing truck, filled with passengers, into taking them there. The owner of the television insists that no one support Brazil, threatening to turn it off if anybody does.
The film then takes viewers to the Amazon jungle and focuses on Zama, a tribesman who proudly sports a yellow soccer jersey with Ronaldo’s number nine on it. He gives a running soccer commentary as he and his companions, unsuccessfully, hunt monkeys in the forest canopy. They are waiting for the big match too, but discover that an elderly member of the tribe has taken the antenna cable to use as a hair ornament. In the end, the tribesmen resort to watching the game through the window of a logger’s hut.
All three strands of the story feature wonderful scenery, especially the sections in Mongolia, which also use throat singing for a stupendous soundtrack.