[Disclaimer: I have not and will not watch United Passions, which I review below.]
It's been a bad week for FIFA. On May 27, fourteen officials were arrested in connection with a corruption scandal. Two days later, Sepp Blatter won re-election as FIFA President. (Yes, that's bad news.) Finally, Blatter announced his resignation after news broke that his second-in-command, Jérôme Valcke, participated in a $10 million bribe connected to South Africa's 2010 World Cup. What better way to cap off such an eventful time in world soccer than with a ridiculous propaganda film? Having premiered at Cannes in 2014, United Passions is making its way to the States this Friday June 5.
United Passions is the story of FIFA's founding and the World Cup's origins. The trailer opens with a table of vest-clad men coming up with the name for FIFA – obviously true to history. Later, we hear someone say, "Blatter is apparently good at finding money." We then meet Blatter, played by Tim Roth, whose conflict in the film seems to be pretty on-point: finding a way to cover up corruption. The twist here is that he is portrayed as a true hero for the beautiful game. Everyone around him is trying to ruin him and it's his job to retain soccer's integrity. A woman tells him, "You've been betrayed. You could go to prison."
Disregarding recent events, the movie looks horrible. There does not seem to be a compelling plot beyond that FIFA is a thing because some people made it a thing and kept it a thing.
Considering recent events, the movie is a complete laughing stock. Nobody asked for a film about FIFA executives (except FIFA executives), but we're getting one anyway. If Blatter's resignation weren't enough, this movie screams of guilt. It would be like Major League Baseball financing a film where the game's best players reject steroids, painting a select few as bad apples.
United Passions just might be the summer comedy we never expected.