Gerardo Olivares was coming straight out of the wonderful world of documentary film making when he co-wrote (with Chema Rodriguez) and shot his first narrative feature, La Gran Final (2006).

Gran Final chronicles the various funny attempts of three different tribal groups of natives trying to catch the upcoming TV transmission of FIFA’S 2002 world Cup final between Brazil and Germany. What seems like an easy task, sitting in the comfort of your home, armed with your remote control, can become way more complex when you are part of a nomad tribe in the far remote Asian steps of Altai (Russian federation), a Tuareg clan in the middle of the Sahara Desert or indigenous hunters of the Amazon.

Olivares films rely on sublime scenery from various corners of the Earth and a cast consisting mostly of non-professionals, thus proposing a refreshing take. Most of all, although it is a comedy, the depiction of the various mobs on the run to find the right spot to enjoy the game, while making various funny alliances with other groups to get to it before the first whistle, dignifies its characters.

Due to the nature of its making, the ensemble cast in Gran Final may be uneven but mainly it is surprisingly good in its riveting honesty. They are beautiful, clever and they do provide solid ground of clever entertainment value.

In crafting their tale of communication, Olinares and Rodriguez propose highly  amusing characters and silly situations, but they never make fun of them. The outcome is far less questionable than classics like Jamie Uys’ The Gods Must be Crazy (1980).

Without getting heavy or preachy, the makers manage to tackle, as a metaphor, a few questions about cultural appropriation, stuck between a painful past and joining the new world in its celebration of a unique God that is the black and white ball. The Asian nomads changing their routes to follow electric lines (so they can watch TV) is one powerful allegory. But when the first whistle is heard, the contemporary settings come together and even a Tuareg chief who usually prevents himself from talking to others might venture into a short tactical analysis of the game.

A game bringing all together.

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