Pelada Shoots, Scores

By Noah Davis Comment

At its core, soccer is the most social of games. You need little to play – some semblance of a ball, two “posts” for goals – but it does require bodies. Solo kickabouts rarely last.

Luke Boughen and Gwendolyn Oxenham prove this point in Pelada, a documentary that follows the two former college stars as they travel the world, searching for pickup games. They find them everywhere, from a prison in Bolivia to a town square in China.

The film, which played its world premiere at South by Southwest in March and scored positive reviews from outlets included The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and the BBC, held its New York premiere Tuesday night at Legend’s Restaurant and Bar. SportsNewser spoke with Oxenham before the screening about the definition of success, the drudgery of promotion, and kinda, sorta being a movie star.While answering our questions, Oxenham stood on 33rd St., corralling the line and selling tickets. The glam life of a movie star?

“No, no,” she said, overwhelmed but smiling as she clutched an envelope full of ticket proceeds and simultaneously answered a question from the manager of Legend’s.

After a day in New York, Oxenham leaves for the West Coast and Pelada‘s Seattle premiere. Despite the positive press, recruiting viewers has been the most difficult task for Oxenham, Boughen, and the two other co-directors. The admittedly shy former Duke star spent her day making cold calls.

“It’s very hard to get someone to come to a soccer movie if they aren’t already a fan,” she said. “Even within the soccer community we had such wonderful press from the bloggers but some of the clubs haven’t heard of us so we’re trying to the word out.”

However, for Oxenham – who earned a graduate degree in creative writing and is finishing a novel – the venture was a success even before Pelada hit screens.

“I think the experience was the goal,” she said. “To make a lame sports comparison, when you’re playing in a game, it’s great when you win an award or something, but nothing will ever match the experience of getting to play with the people that we played with. It’s hard to know if we were lucky, and if we happened to stumble upon a bunch of great games or if that’s just what the game has to offer, and every single alley might have had something else spectacular happening.”

“Even if every review from here on out starts bagging on my narration and saying that I weigh down the movie, getting to play with those people was worth it.”

See, it’s a social thing.