The film United Passions was an interesting one to see. Unfortunately for the filmmakers and FIFA, the main financial backers of this film, the release of United Passions in the United States has coincided with the arrests of a number of high ranking officials at FIFA on corruption charges. In light of those arrests, it’s hard to look at a film such as United Passions in a positive light, considering its fairly uplifting portrayal of recently resigned FIFA President Sepp Blatter. But for many of us in Europe and North America, it can be hard to view Mr. Blatter, and his predecessors in a positive light. In this sense, United Passions has lost a significant amount of credibility despite barely being screened anywhere in Europe or North America. In fact, only ten cinemas are showing the film here in the United States.
However, the filmmakers made certain to include a brief preface, stating that United Passions is to be seen as a work of “dramatic fiction.” In short, it is an interpretation of events, but not an official history, certainly not an exact record of what happened. Critics have claimed that FIFA’s backing of the film forced the filmmakers to depict a more positive image of the world football federation, thus enforcing this film’s status as propaganda.
The declaration that this film is dramatic fiction makes sense when one considers the fact that British born-New Zealander Sam Neill was chosen to play former Brazilian FIFA President João Havelange, and Englishman Tim Roth was likewise chosen to play the aforementioned Mr. Blatter, a native of Switzerland. In my own opinion, had the filmmakers wanted this piece to be taken as a work of meticulous history, they would have cast a Brazilian to play Havelange and a Swiss actor to play Blatter.
However, as a work of fiction, I would certainly say that the filmmakers made good decisions in the realm of casting. Gérard Depardieu, who played FIFA’s third president Jules Rimet, Neill, and Roth were at the centre of the film, and did a pretty good job in their roles.
With all that said, some certainly do see this film as FIFA’s attempt to preserve the image and legacy of at least these three of its past presidents. As a viewer, I admired these figures attempts at making soccer a global affair, not just the sport of Europe. Perhaps this film’s biggest image problem comes from allowing its subject to also play the role of main financial backer.
The photography was very good, reflecting the style of camerawork that has become the norm in both French and British cinema. The sound was also well done. In cinematic terms, the biggest flaw with this film is its script, which was sometimes hard to follow, with frequent cases of bulky dialogue.
Overall, I would rate United Passions as being just another period piece. It’s nothing special, and when the time comes that those FIFA officials who already have been, and have yet to be arrested are put on trial, I have little doubt that this film will already be forgotten.