Director: Fernando Vendrell
Country: Cape Verde
Much like my last entry, Feguibox, Dribbling Fate is a sports film from a tiny African nation. This time, the sport is football and the country is Cape Verde – a cluster of ten volcanic islands off the coast of West Africa, with a Portuguese-speaking population of half a million.
On Cape Verde, football is a way of life. Job opportunities on the islands are limited, so the young men dream of emigrating to Portugal and becoming sports stars. This is made apparent from the very first scene, where we see a boy marking out a football field in the arid soil.
Main character Mané is a middle aged bar owner on the island of Saö Vicente, who spends his time avidly following his favourite team, Benfica. Mané himself was given the chance to try out for the team as a young man, but turned it down so he could marry a local girl instead. This decision has haunted him ever since, as he is unsatisfied with his daily life and constantly wonders what might have been.
Mané coaches a team of local boys, and tries to live his thwarted dreams of greatness through them. One boy in particular, Kalu, faces a choice that echoes the one Mané made – and Mané pushes him to pursue a career in football. But this is not enough to quash Mané’s growing obsession and delusion that, if he traveled to Europe, he would still be able to somehow recapture the missed opportunity of his youth.
Dribbling Fate is the story of Mané’s growing obsession, and the impact it has on those around him. Eventually, this obsession motivates him to commit an act of selfishness so great that it risks tearing his family apart. He is brought face to face with the emptiness of the life he’s always coveted, and acquires a new appreciation for his quiet and uneventful life in Cape Verde.
The film is highly televisual, favouring verbal storytelling over visual. It’s an understated approach which nonetheless manages to hit all the right emotional notes. The character of Mané could very easily have become thoroughly unlikable, as he wallows in regret and self-pity for so many of his scenes. It’s a testament to the performance and the script, therefore, that he is instead a complex figure who invokes as much sympathy and compassion as he does disdain.
Dribbling Fate proved difficult for me to get my hands on, but if you ever get the chance to see it, it comes highly recommended.