Film: Offside Review
I have a not-so-secret love of sports documentaries. Maybe it’s because there is still an athlete in my bones or because the human interest stories are universal. Whichever it may be, I am excited I can expand my sports doc viewing with the new Polish documentary by Miguel Gaudencio called Offside.
Offside follows the pre-season training and preparations the all-female Polish soccer team endures to prepare for regular season play. It’s an intimate look at not only the practices but the level of commitment these players adhere to for the game they love.
The thing that strikes you first about Offside is the visuals. The film is shot entirely in black and white. While some may want to connect this purely for an artistic look, for me it makes the story grounded. This isn’t just a film about soccer players, it’s about a team coming together to strengthen their bond on the field. Each player is unique, but together they blend into one team. The use of black and white footage creates a monochromatic theme of unity. It isn’t about individuals, but about the team as a whole. Each player blends into the canvas, allowing for the audience to focus on the collective work of the teammates that strengthens the team.
This can also be seen in the storyline. Unlike most sports docs, the film does not follow a few individuals, weaving their life into the story along with the team. At first, this was a little difficult to get used to. There are moments when I wished there would have been a bit more focus on the players, allowing us to get into their individual worlds, but in the end, it was for the best. Offside isn’t that type of documentary. In keeping with the focus of the film on the team and the pre-season pursuits, the audience is able to journey along with everyone as they build a foundation. The unity isn’t lost when spotlighting only a few players.
The other interesting effect along with the visuals and the open storyline is that the focus is on the team. The film is about a soccer team, not a team of women. Athletes are athletes, no matter the gender or sport, and by removing triggers that tend to highlight this aspect allows the film to stand on its own team’s feet. Yes, it is marketed/summarized as following the “all female Polish soccer team,” but it never once makes a point to say it’s a female sport. I wholeheartedly believe there needs to be more exploration of female occupied sports, but that doesn’t mean we have to exploit the fact that they are female athletes.
The limitations of key points, like gender or specific storylines, allows Offside to show an unbiased look behind the curtain of pre-season sports training. The film follows the training, the formation of the starting team, and even the turmoil of pre-season, a world not many outsiders are allowed to witness. Other sports docs, like the ones on cable movie channels, showcase state of the art facilities and high tech training, but Offside shows where the heart of athletes truly lies, in the game itself and not in tech.
It’s not about flashy equipment or rigorous training, this soccer team’s focus is on the team coming together and the sport they love. Offside shows how the non-million dollar club teams journey through pre-season and how it affects their players. We see these players briefly beyond the field, how they interact in the world. These athletes may not spend 24/7 practicing or “living the game,” but the sport is always present in some way in their lives.
Offside is an intimate look at the journey a Polish female soccer team goes down during their pre-season. It’s not like previous sports docs you may have watched, and while it might be a little jarring at first, the vulnerability and uniqueness is appreciated.
Offside is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by GREENBOX EUROPE