“Pelada” provides an inspirational look at global pick-up soccer obsession

Looking for a late summer alternative to the stale Hollywood popcorn flicks proliferating at the multiplex?
Intel heartily recommends “Pelada,” Los Angeles filmmaker and Chamblee High School graduate Ryan White‘s mesmerizing new documentary.
The film runs exclusively this Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Studio Movie Grill in Alpharetta (click here for tickets).
“Pelada” provides a fascinating look into the global obsession known as pick-up soccer (In Brazil, “pelada” literally translates into “naked” meaning the game is stripped down to its essence).
For two years and 25 countries, White and fellow filmmaker Rebekah Fergusson chronicled the pick up games of former college all-star soccer players Luke Boughen and his girlfriend Gwendolyn Oxenham as they travelled the globe.
The two young soccer “has-beens” (as Oxenham refers to them at the top of the film) are attempting to come to grips with the game that has spurned them from a professional playing career.
Whether or not you care a thing about soccer, “Pelada” skillfully entwines you into Boughen and Oxenham’s journey as they play pick up soccer for fun with prisoners in Bolivia, moonshiners in Kenya, fierce freestylers in China and most remarkably for Oxenham, breaking the law and playing with a headwrap in Iran.
The documentary’s journey to the big screen is as fascinating as the footage.
“We would travel until we ran out of money,” White explains. “We never stayed in a hotel or ate nice meals. When the money ran out, we would come home and fund raise so we could continue the project.”
Along the way, Luke and Gwendolyn were attacked in their car by wildlife, sold phony tickets at the Euro Cup in Austria and, most terrifyingly, questioned by government officials in Iran after Gwendolyn’s pick-up game participation is reported to the authorities.
“Our goal was to document these lives and how engrained the game is all over the world,” explains White. “We wanted to create a film that would appeal to people who couldn’t care less about soccer.”
Following a screening at the Sarasota Film Festival, White was reassured they had accomplished what they set out to do.
Recalls White: “These sweet little old ladies literally with walkers came up to me afterward and told me they had accidentally walked into the screening the night before. But they liked it so much they came back to see it again the next night!”
In other words, goooooooooooooooal!