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Sunday Ball, Rio's annual favela soccer championship, a film by Eryk Rocha

Sunday Ball, 2014. Brazil. In Portuguese; English subtitles. 71 min. Directed by Eryk Rocha.

Sunday Ball, a feature film by Eryk Rocha: In the favela of Rio de Janeiro’s Sampaio neighborhood, the annual soccer championship is played with pride and passion that rivals the major leagues.

At an ordinary football field in Rio de Janeiro’s Sampaio neighborhood—close to the Maracana Stadium, where the 2014 World Cup final was held—an annual favela soccer championship takes place among a league of 14 teams. This passionate expression of Brazilian culture is captured as the camera follows the enthusiasm of the cheering crowds, and the precision of the players’ movements, revealing the epic character of the soccer imaginary in Brazilian culture.

We met Eryk on February 22 after the North American premiere of Sunday Ball at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, following his screening and talk about the process and inspiration for the film …


Around the same time the 2014 World Cup was being fought for throughout Brazil, 14 teams from the Rio favelas, each taking the name of a major club, were getting together on Sundays to compete in their own tournament. Soccer is for the community a unifying experience of passion and energy and the desire to win.

Sunday Ball is about soccer but also about something else – my memories from when I was a child. The child in the film is me. For Brazilians soccer is fundamental to culture, it is a ritual. Brazilian and Latin American cultures connect dance and war. The bodies dance. The bodies are in clash. 

The film is sensorial, the viewer is immersed in the middle of the field, participating in the game. There is also a spacial experience of the sound from the field – a melting pot of experiences. Soccer is the encounter of the European and Brazilian. The film synthesizes the sound from the field with European opera by Puccini and Wagner, excerpts from Hector Villa-Lobos, and Brazilian percussion by Jorge Amorim.

There is no state support for the teams, they play out of their passion for soccer. They take the names of major league teams – the finals were played by Geracao team (from the Matriz favela) vs. Juventude (from the Sampaio favela). The Sampaio soccer field where the championship was played is near to where the big stadium protests and political problems were taking place. The coach is a pharmacist in the neighborhood and the teams and neighborhoods contribute what they can to pay the referee $50 per game. The winning team gets $400. But amateur street fields in Rio are becoming extinct because the real estate developers are coming in.

The thing is that TV gives the facts, but film shows the human side and the undercurrent of conflict. I’m going to be exploring this conflict in a TV series. One of my favorite parts of the film is when the coach of the losing team is telling his players to use the loss as a life lesson.

[Eryk used five cameras filming with long lenses and shooting at 60 frames per second in order to crisply capture the fast moving game - a fast shutter time ‘freezes’ motion and a slow shutter, settings below 30, causes motion blur; the standard shutter setting on a film camera is 48.]


Eryk Aruak Gaitán Rocha was born on January 19, 1978 in Brasília, Distrito Federal, Brazil. He is an editor and director, known for Transeunte (2010), Stones in the Sky (2002) and Pachamama (2008). Rocha is the son of legendary Brazilian Director Glauber Rocha. Paula Gaitan, Eryk’s mother, is a film producer and her latest film -“Noite”, is about noise music in Rio.

“Stunningly shot and marvelously edited to capture the rhythms of the game, the film transcends its subject and offers rare pleasures even to those uninterested in the game.”.. Jack Weissberg, Variety. Trailer above.

Sunday Ball – festival participation: BFI London Film Festival Rio International Film Festival CPH:DOX


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