Jamie Neish: Doc Next Goal Wins is big score

Jaiyah Saelua interviewed during the Next Goal Wins movie launch. Pic: Comp
Jaiyah Saelua interviewed during the Next Goal Wins movie launch. Pic: Comp
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Next Goal Wins, an uplifting documentary about the world’s worst football team, American Samoa, is a wonderful film – emotional, persuasive and, above all else, fascinating.

Through new footage, personal interviews and the occasional flashback, the film softly chronicles the team’s resilient efforts to better themselves in time for the approaching 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

The film, which opens in the UK this week, also represents how documentary films have become increasingly commercial in recent years. Rather than sticking with dry, educational content, directors Mike Brett and Steve Jamison have picked up on a naturally dramatic story and shaped it in an insightful and entertaining fashion that makes it irresistible.

It helps, too, that everything within Next Goal Wins is real. From the sorry position we find the team in when the film opens (bottom of the FIFA World Ranking table, having not scored a goal, let alone won an official match), right through to the players, whose determination and passion for their sport can’t help but rub off, the film is powerful because of its matter-of-factness.

As the team are aided in their efforts by Dutch coach Thomas Rongen, the dramatic beats become stronger and character revelations more poignant, and its the director’s ability to let these unspool in a natural manner, as well as the odd musical accompaniment, that proves to be Next Goal Wins’ greatest achievement.

Next Goal Wins wears its heart on its sleeve from start to finish, and becomes something rich and rewarding to the audience. Narrative films may be a good way to escape everyday life, but documentary films, can be just as rewarding – and I’m the most non-football fan alive.

Read more from Jamie at www.emptyscreens.com