Sunday, 14 December 2014

Banks in Crisis!

It would be nice if the government gave as generously to food banks in crisis as they do to those banks in the City. It would be nice if, just once, fraudsters at financial establishments had to rely on whatever food was dropped into donation boxes outside Tesco in order to feed their families.

Those were my immediate reactions when I read a recent article about the Cambridge City Food Bank and their Christmas campaign, aiming not only to encourage edible donations, but to raise funds to support those who can't afford the fuel required to cook what they so gratefully receive.




When the charity accepted my offer to make them a film to promote the cause I knew my biggest challenge was going to be to refrain from using it as a vehicle to criticise the system that creates the problems. Then, when I met Susan - a food bank user - and she told me about her family's plight, the challenge became a whole lot harder.

For low income families like Susan's it's virtually impossible not to get caught up in a perpetual cycle of debt. Thankfully, there's help to cover the shortcomings of the welfare system and the people behind the local food bank do a wonderful job, working hard throughout the year to offer desperate people a lifeline. Evidently, in a city as expensive as Cambridge, there's no shortage of desperate people.

Having been a student in Cambridge for three years the recent revelation that it is the most expensive UK city in which to live and study came as no surprise. Not only that, TripAdvisor recently named it the priciest city in England for a weekend trip, pipping even London to the title. In short, with the cost of living rising relentlessly and 'minimum wage' pathetically lagging behind, it's little wonder families are struggling.

Susan lives with her husband and two daughters in a modest two bedroomed house on the edge of town. On five occasions this year they've relied on the food bank to provide an emergency supply of basic foodstuffs such as pasta and beans, along with the occasional treat; all of which is contributed by generous shoppers outside supermarkets on donation days.


In conversation with Susan she was keen to emphasise that she only uses the food bank as a last resort and admitted there was an element of shame involved. She told me that the snowball effect on their debt means that she and her husband are struggling to keep up with the rent payments of their council-owned property. As a result of this, on the day of writing, she is appearing in court facing eviction. If Susan loses - and she concedes that she might - the family could be made homeless by Christmas.

The food bank is powerless to combat eviction threats, but can at least offer some relief in the form of nourishment and, as you'll see in the film, offer much appreciated credit on gas and electric top-up cards. Some shocking statistics reveal that 5,000 people in Cambridge alone turned to the food bank last year, up 85% from the year before. Alarmingly, this is a consistent trend across the UK's 1,000 or so active food banks and it shows no sign of abating.

Make no mistake, this is not a problem exclusive to Cambridge, or even the UK. This is a global problem, and it's a problem that is desperate for immediate intervention. It is estimated that four million people in the UK are one unexpected bill away from financial crisis and that nearly one million have already turned to a food bank. Thankfully, as evidenced outside Tesco last Saturday morning: where the government fails, the people are generally willing to step up.

Update: Unfortunately, Susan and her family lost the case in court and were given four weeks notice to vacate the property, meaning that while at least they'll have a home for Christmas, their future from January is uncertain. 


Monday, 20 October 2014

Qatar You Serious?!

I recently read an article on a satirical news site that declared ISIS had been selected to host the 2026 World Cup. “At FIFA we believe that football is a truly global game” read the imagined Sepp Blatter quote. The most striking thing about the article is how worryingly plausible it all is. Remember FIFA's admission that, when organising a tournament, democracy is a hindrance.

Back to reality, around this time four years ago, football fans everywhere waited to find out whether FIFA would look to North America, Asia or Australasia for hosts of the 2022 World Cup. There was that other option, the Middle East, but it was widely regarded a token candidate.

Immediately following Sepp Blatter's ceremonious envelope-opening the football world collectively paused - stunned and open-mouthed - before texting mates to condemn dear old Sepp in such a manic rush that one such message I received referred to him as a - presumably auto-corrected - corrupt blunt.

The most hated man in football.


Personally, not only was I disappointed - having hoped for an Aussie World Cup - I was curious. So much so that, on my way to South Africa to make a film about yet another FIFA-inspired scandal (namely, the building of Cape Town Stadium) I stopped over in Qatar with the intention of making an entirely separate film about their football culture.

It didn't materialise for two reasons: One, I was refused permission (bringing a camera into the country was fine, but if I pressed record I could be in serious trouble) and two, there was the somewhat debilitating issue of there not being a football culture. Subsequently, I found myself with the best part of a week in Doha, the capital - and pretty much only - city, with not an awful lot to do.

Seeking cultural immersion I couchsurfed with a local lad who was so trusting he left me a set of keys to his apartment before he'd even met me. I repaid his trust by accidentally traipsing all over his prayer mat with my shoes on: an act that was met with a horrified gasp followed by an awkwardly prolonged series of tuts. Suitably guilt-ridden I offered to buy him dinner that night, but he politely refused insisting that, as his guest, I shouldn’t have to spend a single riyal for the entire duration of my stay.

Doha, Qatar


Despite Prayer Mat Gate we got on well and it was a joy to be on the receiving end of this genuinely warm Islamic hospitality. However, as it happened, this generosity was just about the only thing in Qatar I did warm to. I left knowing I'd probably never return and feeling all the more disgruntled with FIFA. As someone who travels to major tournaments often I felt like they'd taken a World Cup away from me. More broadly speaking: I felt like they'd taken it away from the fans.

There are a range of reasons why Qatar is a terrible place to host this month-long festival of football. For a start, FIFA claim to be against discrimination and gender inequality yet fans traveling to Qatar will be entering a state where homosexuality is illegal, women still need permission to apply for a driving licence and rape within marriage is not considered a crime.

Then there are the practicalities: the temperature in Qatar can - and frequently does - get dangerously high. I went in the autumn and still couldn't handle the heat (whole swathes of the day were a write off) and there are legitimate concerns for the safety of the players. The original plan was to counter this by building air-conditioned stadiums, but these plans have now been scrapped.

Furthermore, there's the simple fact that not many Qataris really care much about football. This considered, you’d surely have to question the sanity of building eight - perhaps even ten – very expensive stadiums around the Yorkshire-sized country.

© The Guardian
Perhaps I could forgive them for all of the above, but for the fact that the tournament's infrastructure is being built at the cost of untold human death and misery. According to some sources a thousand slaves have already died on World Cup-related construction sites (That's right, slaves. Apparently it's still the 18th century over there). The International Trade Union Confederation has predicted the death toll could reach 4,000 by the time a ball is kicked.

You could argue that FIFA aren't to blame, and I would counter that argument by suggesting that you're talking out of your arse. They have the power to stop it today, but it's still happening. So fuck them, and fuck their World Cup in Qatar.


Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Behind the Reel

Having spent the afternoon updating my showreel I figured I'd accompany its grand re-release with a few words. Before there are any more words however, here is the reel itself:





During the time I'd set aside to do this I mostly drank tea. After all, there were many decisions to make: Which clips would make the cut? In what order would it all go? How many biscuits did I deserve with my next cup? So many questions. A fine excuse then to sit, drink tea and ponder.

The frantic opening multi-screen arrangement samples a range of projects I've worked on: mostly as editor, some as self-shooting director and editor. 8 of the 9 are from this calendar year with the exception of the documentary I made in South Africa two years ago.

Then follows longer, full-screen snippets of work beginning with a section of the trailer I edited for Crude, an 'eco-thriller'. Crude aims to raise awareness of the Niger River Delta crisis, and does so whilst maintaining a gripping narrative. The story is fictional, but the crisis is very real.

Screenshot from SanDisk branded Life's Stories video

Next are a few short clips of SanDisk branded films that I not only edited, but also had a hand producing. From free-climbing on alarmingly large boulders to hurtling down a trail on a mountain bike via shark cage diving, these videos have been used far and wide by SanDisk both online and at industry exhibitions. 

Finally, the showreel concludes with a brief but fiery section of my latest documentary. As I've written about extensively on this blog I spent 5 weeks of the summer in Brazil independently producing, shooting and editing FIFA and the Perfect Con. The aim of the series was to capture the country's mood as the World Cup unfolded. The conclusion, as evidenced by the sequence chosen for the showreel, is that it was somewhat turbulent. 

The clip in question covers the drama of an anti-World Cup protest in Brasilia. Due to the unpredictable nature of the event it was a challenge just to be in the right place, let alone at the right time. 

Screenshot from FIFA and the Perfect Con
Worse than that though, as you can clearly see from the footage, the air was thick with tear gas and, as a result, I struggled to function. More distracting still, riot police liberally showered the crowd with rubber bullets, some of which whistled past me.

And there we have it, that's my showreel, finishing with my email address so people know how to contact me and offer all those jobs. Now then, I'd better put the kettle on...


Thursday, 17 July 2014

My Love-Hate Relationship with the World Cup

Following the frantic flapping of three terrorised doves desperately trying to flee the stadium's four walls of noise, the 2014 World Cup kicked off. 

One of the three kids charged with releasing the birds - a stunt presumably arranged to symbolise FIFA's renowned dedication to world peace (!) - proceeded the act with a protest. As thirteen year-old Jeguaká Mirim walked off the pitch he held a sign aloft demanding land rights for indigenous people. However, unless you were there you wouldn't have seen it because the television cameras ignored it. After all, this was to be the World Cup of turning blind eyes and ignoring the needs, rights and desires of the people. Welcome to Fifaland.

The view from my 'office' one evening in Rio. © Ryan Chapman
The opening day of the World Cup provided me with a cocktail of emotions. By that point I had spent two incredible weeks in one of the most scintillating cities on earth, falling in love with it all over again having first visited back in 2007 - as an only slightly fresher faced traveller - on my first foray outside of Europe. The previous evening had seen Christ the Redeemer bathed in yellow and green light to mark the imminent arrival of the tournament and surely never before has such a simple gesture had such a huge impact on the mood of a city. Rio de Janeiro was positively buzzing, and it was infectious.

In the hours leading up to the much anticipated kick-off I attended two very different anti World Cup demonstrations. The first had a party atmosphere with samba bands marching through the streets accompanied by revellers in fancy dress shooting bubble guns and water pistols. The second had a far darker tone after beginning with the arrest of two activists, much to the anger of the gathered crowd. There were times in both when I didn't want to be branded 'just another journalist' and so put my camera away and got more involved. When I caught myself on the frontline shouting slogans against the violence of the heavily armoured military police directly at the heavily armoured military police I justified it by calling it immersive filmmaking.

Me (bottom left with the camera, not the sign)
I dragged myself away as Brazil's opening match approached and entered an entirely different world: The Fan Fest. Occupying a sizeable chunk of Rio's famous sands, this was the FIFA-organised public viewing area and I had assumed, the place to be. I entered with an open mind, determined not to blindly resent it. However, it appeared for whatever reason that most locals had stayed away. It was full to capacity but out of those in Brazil shirts - and there were many - barely any knew the words to the national anthem, revealing just how many gringos had adopted Brazil as their second team.

I left the Fan Zone after fifteen minutes and found the scenes on the streets much more as I had expected. Every bar and restaurant had people spilling onto the pavement, straining for a view of the action. Street corner barbecues encouraged gatherings around tiny television sets; viewers taking it in turns to readjust the aerial for a better reception. This was more like it. When Brazil scored their equaliser the place went berserk. The explosive barrage of fireworks was drowned out by the delighted screams of a nation and the significance of the occasion hit me like a train.

My World Cup unfolded in much the same vein: dipping in and out of protests while sustaining a complicated love-hate relationship with the whole affair. Most days were spent either shooting or editing my films (FIFA and the Perfect Con) and most nights involved reluctantly declining invitations to go out drinking due to the workload and early starts. Unfortunately, the limited time I had set aside for 'enjoyment' coincided - in a very non-coincidental and all too premeditated way - with England matches. Considering this wasn't the first time I'd followed England to a major tournament, I should've known what to expect.

The disappointment after scooting across to Sao Paulo full of hope that we could perhaps scrape a 0-0 draw against the Uruguayans was somewhat sweetened by the enormous nightly street parties. Fans from every nation - even non-participating ones - gathered to mingle, sing, drink and dance through dawn. Street vendors provided chilled beers and spirits from cool boxes while bass-loving locals showed off their vehicles' sound systems, parking up to provide tunes from car boot discos.


Throughout the journey I was pleasantly surprised to discover that even the most fanatical flag-waving, horn-blowing Brazilians were willing to voice their anti-government and anti-FIFA opinions. Few, it seemed, supported FIFA's event unconditionally. Of those who chose to protest some opted for high-impact methods while others went for subtlety, like the red card protest on Copacabana (somber looking folk lined up displaying red cards to FIFA) or the theatrical open heart surgery carried out by a mock surgeon wearing goalkeeper gloves (in response to the state's prioritising of football over health care).

Perhaps the most poignant metaphor of all, however, was an accidental one. I've since learnt that two of the three aforementioned doves released before kick-off didn't make it out of the stadium alive, reportedly crashing into the roof structure in blind panic. Not only does this obviously make a mockery of the whole gesture but it is characteristic of FIFA's World Cup on a much broader scale: everything looks great for the cameras, but reality is heartbreakingly different.


Originally featured on filterview.tv you can now watch all three parts of FIFA and the Perfect Con combined on Vimeo:




Thursday, 12 June 2014

Brazil's Mellowed Yellows

Finally! Today sees the start of Brazil's month-long party and who's going to admit they're not at least a little bit excited? Get the crushed ice and limes ready! Also, while you're at it, prepare for police brutality and lungs full of tear gas.

Recent research revealed that 61% of Brazilians are now against the World Cup. That, when you think about it, is an incredible statistic. Several years ago almost the entire country was in favour of hosting the event, but evidence suggests enthusiasm has faded. How this enormous swing in public opinion has occurred I hope is answered in my films (FIFA and the Perfect Con).

Though 61% of the population may be against the World Cup I wouldn't suggest for one moment that they won't be tuning in to watch their yellow-shirted heroes later today. It may be a moral tightrope, but I for one am walking it with ease, and I expect most Brazilians will too. I have no problem with being against FIFA and their abhorrent World Cup model whilst being excited by the prospect of four weeks of watching the best players in the world in action (and England).

Salvador © Ryan Chapman


Over three weeks ago I arrived in the sun-drenched city of Salvador to begin my filmmaking adventure. Not many people go to Salvador for a week without hitting the beach, but that was me. If I wasn't out meeting people and shooting interviews I was sat with my laptop and Final Cut Pro with a flowing supply of coffee. I did find the time to explore Salvador's streets - even plucking up the 'courage' to leave the confines of the 'tourist safe' three-block centre of the old town - and what I saw cemented my preconceptions that Salvador is a city of contrasts. Cobbled roads lined with colourful colonial buildings by which men sit playing dominoes soon give way to chaotic thoroughfares where shops compete for attention by blaring out terrible dance music amid the enthusiastic hooting of a thousand impatient drivers.

Most people I encountered would enquire as to whether I was there for the World Cup and would be happy to talk about it. We'd invariably communicate in either their broken English or my terrible Spanish-Portuguese-hybrid and conclude with a laugh that England have no chance. Only when I questioned them further would they reveal their feelings towards the government and FIFA, and on every single occasion they admitted that their passion for the tournament had been diluted. And this was in Salvador: a city that hadn't seen protests on the same scale as cities in the south.

Brasilia © Ryan Chapman


From Salvador, the first capital of Brazil, I flew to Brasilia: the current. For a period in between, Rio had the privilege, but in the late 1950's it was decided that Brazil's government should be more centrally located and so two men were tasked with designing a new capital. I like to imagine them plotting the roads and utilities on Sim City, perhaps sending in the occasional tornado or alien invasion when things got boring. The architect of the pair's work is well celebrated thanks to the striking modernist nature of his creations. The urban planner, however, did not receive many accolades.

He did not design a pedestrian-friendly city, having assumed everyone who lives there would drive cars. As a result, Brasilia lacks street-life and thus personality. It is split into zones specific to their purpose - residential, commercial, banking, hotels - inside which blocks are assigned numbers and buildings are assigned letters. There's something eerily science-fictional about the repetitive layout and the uniformed naming convention. Even the metro stations are numbered (I won't admit how many times I got off at Sul 108 instead of Sul 106. Or was it Sul 104? I forget.)

On my second day in Brasilia was an anti-World Cup protest which I document comprehensively in Part 2 of my films (which, by the way, will be online tomorrow). As a consequence of my experience during this protest my opinion has changed. Originally, I thought the significance of the occasion, and the importance of the World Cup to Brazilian society, might prevent people from protesting and disrupting the tournament. However, I've now realised what a small role the World Cup is playing. Instead, it is the violence of the military police that is keeping people off the streets. Many people are simply too scared. It seems in Brazil the government is successfully repressing the people, and it's not a very pleasant thing to be witnessing.

Ipanema Beach, Rio © Ryan Chapman


I'm now in Rio, and over the last week or so I have noticed gradually increasing levels of what can only be described as World Cup fever seeping in. There are several streets drowning in flags and stalls on major junctions selling just about everything in yellow and green that you can think of. By all accounts, however, it's not happening on even close to the same scale as it usually does during a World Cup. You'd expect hosting the event would intensify the carnival atmosphere, but apparently not this time.

When the actions of a governing body causes the most passionate supporters of the thing it is governing to resent it you have to question the viability of that body. FIFA have lost the game. I personally hope there are regular protests that cause a good deal of chaos and disruption to send them, and the Brazilian government, a very strong message. And I would love to see visiting fans taking part. I, for sure, will be one of them.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The Perfect Con: Plotting the Map and Bridging the Gap

In January I blogged about my project, FIFA and the Perfect Con. The first thing to say is that I have launched a crowd-funding campaign to help bridge the funding gap. All you wonderful people can contribute from £3 by clicking here. More on that later. For now, please take a couple of minutes to watch this teaser, featuring Tim Vickery and somewhat embarrassingly, me:



The project is now going to take the more web-friendly form of a series of short films. Later on, once the commotion of the World Cup has passed, I plan to develop a longer stand-alone documentary but for now, expect bite-sized chunks telling the story as it unfolds.

Brazil is at a cross-roads and one thing is clear: the nation is divided. When one person complains that too much public money is being spent on stadiums and not enough on hospitals and schools, another will argue for the economic benefits the World Cup could bring. When a family express horror after being forcibly evicted from their home, another may express sympathy but will ultimately conclude that it's a necessary side-effect of 'progress'. It remains to be seen whether the football itself will be a unifying force, but one Sao Paulo resident has suggested that emotions are running so high that "if Brazil don't win the thing now, there will be hell to pay." No pressure then, lads.


Over the last several weeks I've taken on as little paid work as I can get away with and have been spending time researching the volatile situation in Brazil, devising my route around the country, and planning the logistics. I will begin in Salvador and visit three other cities central to the story: Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. In each location I'll be meeting people directly affected, people heavily involved in the widely reported anti-government protests, and those with authoritative opinions on the subject.

As you'll see from the teaser, production has already begun. Just the other week I interviewed Rio-based journalist and Brazilian-football-know-it-all, Tim Vickery, who was in the UK for the Easter break. In an attempt to make the setting appear less London-y we met in the exotically named Copacabana Beach Bar - in the basement of a Brazilian owned drinking den in Camden Town called Made in Brasil (check it out, their Caipirinhas are incredible).

Meeting the legend: Tim Vickery, in a Brazilian bar in Camden Town




Though I've saved vigorously, I am need of a little help to get the films to the high standard I know they can be, and so have launched a crowd-funding campaign. There's an important distinction to make here that I don't want to make any money from these films and none of the contributed funds will go on food, accommodation or anything like that. It'll all go directly into the film project itself.

If you'd be happy to spare a few quid, please visit my IndieGoGo campaign page, here. A contribution of £3 will be rewarded with your name in a scroll-of-thanks at the end of each episode and there are other perks for contributions of £10, £30 and £75. For the latter you'll not only get your name in the credits but receive a personalised postcard of thanks from Brazil (or Cambridge if you'd prefer!), a DVD of the finished product and I'll take a football shirt with me and donate it to a disadvantaged child in Brazil on your behalf.

Here's is a summary of what perks are offered for each contribution:

£3 - Your name in a scroll of thanks at the end of each episode
£10 - Scroll of thanks and postcard
£30 - Scroll of thanks, postcard and DVD of the finished product
£75 - Scroll of thanks, postcard, DVD and the donation of a football shirt on your behalf
£300 - All of the above and exclusive sponsorship of an episode

The crowd-funding campaign will be running up until the World Cup kicks off and any contribution would be gratefully received. Thank you!

Website: www.theperfectcon.com
Indiegogo: www.igg.me/at/theperfectcon
Facebook: www.fb.com/theperfectcon
#theperfectcon


Sunday, 30 March 2014

Charmingly Raw Streets & Alarmingly Sore Feets

I recently found the time to visit somewhere that has been lingering near the top of my to-go list for quite some time: Lisbon.

Most visitors bound for Portugal tend to head to the south - to the package-holiday haven of the Algarve with its lush beaches and bountiful vineyards - making Lisbon, straddling the Atlantic on the east coast, one of the least touristified* European capitals I've been to. (*not a word, apparently, but in a blog with a title in which I've intentionally double-pluralised the word 'foot' for the sake of a rhyme, I'm going with it).

It was a surprise to read, then, that Lisbon is currently experiencing a tourism boom - no doubt partly thanks to its recent bittersweet emergence as a Ryanair destination - and is fast becoming one of the most visited cities on the continent. Well, I can assure you: they're hiding it well. Actually, it shouldn't be a surprise at all. Lisbon has everything a weekend city-breaker could possibly desire: a lively nightlife, a delightful old town, the ocean, good food, warm weather, cheap wine. What's not to love?

© Ryan Chapman
© Ryan Chapman
For me, one of the joys of visiting a new city is getting lost in its streets. Lisbon, then, provided unavoidable pleasure due to getting lost being an inevitability. Twisted, disorienting streets and alleyways snake over and around its seven hills like a violently vagarious vine making Lisbon nigh on impossible to navigate. Had I not had access to maps on my phone we'd probably still be wandering aimlessly, wondering whether that was the same dog gazing down on us curiously from the same leafy, laundry-laden balcony; or the same rickety tram we'd seen just minutes ago trundling noisily around the steep, winding streets like a vintage fair ride as it has done every day for generations.

Quaint, well lived-in and in some places simply dilapidated - without the heaving crowds of Prague; without the immaculately restored Disneyland-esque medieval flourishes of Tallinn; or the polished cobbles and gleaming glitz of Dubrovnik - Lisbon's old quarters are rough around the edges, crumbling in the middle, and all the more charming for it.


© Ryan Chapman
© Ryan Chapman
After a long afternoon of pedestrianing (yeah, that's right, I'm making up another word - and what?) it would have been wise to rest our aching lower extremities. But no, it was Friday night, one of my favourite DJs happened to be in town, and my upper extremities - clearly jealous of all the exercise enjoyed by their lower counterparts throughout the day - wanted to spend the night thrashing around to techno music.

Now, of course, we were aware that clubbing in Lisbon would work on a similar time-scale to that of their Iberian neighbours, and we adjusted accordingly. At least, we thought we had, arriving at the venue at half past midnight only to be embarrassed when we were told it wouldn't even be opening for another hour, at least. Back to the bar and lesson learnt: when going out in Lisbon don't start drinking games with wine at 8pm if you want to be on top form all the way 'til dawn.


© Ryan Chapman
© Ryan Chapman

Love it as I did, there is something that irked me. Namely, the antipathy shown by some Lisboans towards foreign visitors. Don't get me wrong: I don't want to tar an entire city's population with the same brush (I would only ever dream of doing such a thing when in reference to Paris) - and I did encounter many lovely locals who went out of their way to offer help - but Lisbon seems to have more than it's fair share of rude buggers. Maybe these individuals are not exclusively rude to tourists, but it certainly didn't come across that way.

Like the supermarket check-out lady who literally threw the change at me because I had the nerve to respond with 'sorry, I don't understand' to whatever it was she was asking me; or the cafe barista who refused to clarify the wifi password upon my polite request for him to repeat himself; or the ticket booth attendant who served up a helping of suspicious questioning and lengthy paperwork when my fellow metro rider's perfectly valid ticket failed to open the automatic gate.

Maybe they were each just having a bad day. Either way, looking beyond the occasional case of f*** you, tourist!, Lisbon is wonderful. The bustling city centre is begging to be explored and the seaside suburbs of the Estoril coast offer some relative serenity and provide momentary relief with its chilly Atlantic surf in which to dip those tired feets. 

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Film: FIFA and the Perfect Con

It is said in Brazil that the nation's most popular sport is volleyball, as football is not considered a sport, but a religion. Indeed, though the game originates in England (I'm writing this now just a goalkeeper's kick away from the currently very soggy patch of grass in Cambridge where many of the rules were established) you cannot think Brazil without thinking football. Personally, I can't think Brazil without also thinking beach and caipirinha, so I'm sure to want both by the end of this.

Later this year Brazil will host what promises to be one of the biggest parties the planet has ever seen: The 2014 FIFA World Cup. However, not all Brazilians are as enthused by the prospect as you might imagine. Several months ago, over a million people poured onto the streets in cities across the country to join anti-government demonstrations fuelled by anger over a rise in bus fares, inadequate public services and corruption. These protests soon developed anti-World Cup sentiments with 'FIFA, go home' being one of the more prominent take-home messages. Why? Because hosting a World Cup that meets FIFA's stringent demands is a huge drain on public resources. Too much of a drain, according to many.

A clear message from protesters. (Photo: sueddeutsche.de)


My film - working title: FIFA and the Perfect Con - will explore the contrast between Brazil's unwavering passion for football and the somewhat paradoxical, but no less justifiable, rise of World Cup resentment. It will tell the stories of people who feel neglected by the government - like those who've been forcefully evicted from their homes to clear land for construction projects (170,000 people according to one report) - and those who feel they have been brushed under the carpet as the country prepares itself for the beam of the brightest spotlight imaginable.

Sadly, it's not the first time we've seen a country that is plagued by poverty needlessly overspend in order to tick FIFA's boxes. An assortment of brand new stadiums were built across South Africa for the 2010 World Cup to satisfy football's international governing body and their requirements. This was despite the fact that, in some cases, upgrading existing stadia would have sufficed. One example of an unnecessary new-build was Cape Town Stadium: the focus of my 2013 film Cape Town's White Elephant.

Shooting a time-lapse shot of Cape Town's 'white elephant' for the film mentioned above.


In Brazil, six new stadiums are being constructed and though they stand a better chance of a prosperous post-tournament life, due to the greater popularity of football in Brazil than in South Africa, many Brazilians say the money could have been better spent. 'We want FIFA-standard hospitals and schools' is a common jibe seen inscribed on protesters' placards and graffitied on walls around cities nationwide.

The 'perfect con' in question is of course the World Cup itself. Countries - or more specifically, politicians - want it because of the immediate punch it packs on the global stage. They're willing to do anything to make it happen, but give little thought to the repercussions. Meanwhile, FIFA sit back and dictate; ensuring everything goes their way and nothing impedes their relentless quest to maximise revenue. They even implement strictly enforced 2km 'exclusion zones' around each stadium, inside which they have full control of what is sold and advertised (in accordance, of course, with their lucrative corporate partnerships).

Then, following the last blast of the referee's whistle, they walk away with the lion's share of profits which, as stipulated by themselves from the very beginning, is received entirely free of tax. The prolific Brazilian goal-scorer and 1994 World Cup winner Romário, now a politician, has been outspoken against FIFA, saying: "they come, set up the circus, they spend nothing and take everything".

They get away with it because, unfortunately, one cannot support the World Cup without supporting FIFA by unavoidable association and, for me at least, every fourth summer would be agonisingly dull without the damned thing.

England fans in 2010 before it all went horribly wrong. Bloemfontein, South Africa.
The last time the World Cup was contested on Brazilian soil it ended in disaster for the hosts. On July 16th 1950, Uruguay stunned the world by coming from behind to win the decisive match at Rio de Janeiro's Maracanã Stadium in front of 200,000 spectators. It's a day Brazilians have never forgotten. The goalkeeper who was ultimately blamed for the defeat suffered immeasurably for the rest of his days; was considered a curse; and died penniless. Shortly before his death he revealed the saddest moment of his life was when, twenty years after the event, a woman pointed at him in a supermarket and told her young son "he is the man that made all of Brazil cry".

That defeat made the World Cup a national obsession and Brazil went on to dominate future competitions to become arguably the greatest team of all time. Regardless of the success, however, a victory on home soil is what Brazilians crave, and sixty-four years later they have the chance to exorcise the demons of 1950. This time though, their young and inexperienced team will have to compete amidst a distracting backdrop of political tension and civil unrest. The World Cup is not expected to pass without incident, and to curtail any rebellion, a special riot force has been formed and armed with rubber bullets and tear gas bombs.


Rio's iconic Maracanã Stadium. (Photo: The Guardian)


When I heard of the growing voice among Brazilians calling for a boycott of the tournament, there was an element of surprise. However, after taking a moment to consider their position, I found it easy to understand why they're so discontented and why they believe FIFA has stolen the soul of football's biggest festival. It's thanks to FIFA that the World Cup continues to be less and less about the football and more and more about the money.

Nonetheless, football is still very much a lifeblood of this vibrant nation and regardless of the dubious motives of FIFA as they're pulling the strings, I find it hard to believe that, come June, Brazil won't be bouncing to its own samba-infused beat.