Synopsis by Mark Deming
While it's still breaking through in the United States, soccer (or "football" in most cultures) is the most popular sport in the rest of the world, and it's a game people love to play and to watch. Luke Boughen and Gwendolyn Oxenham are two gifted American soccer players who were highly ranked college athletes and just missed out on professional careers. That hasn't dampened their enthusiasm for the sport; Boughen says "When the ball is kicked towards me, I consider it the game beckoning me," and in the documentary Pelada he and Oxenham follow the game's call around the world. In Pelada, Boughen and Oxenham travel to twenty-five different countries and play pick-up games wherever they find them, from prison yards to construction sites, from alleys to playgrounds, from a moonshiner's camp in Kenya to a game in Iran where Oxenham breaks a social taboo by kicking the ball with male players. At each stop along the way, the players talk with their new friends about the lure of the game, revel in the excitement of even the most humble match and reveal how a friendly game breaks down barriers and brings strangers together. The title Pelada literally means "Naked" in Brazil, but is also local slang for a neighborhood pick-up game; the film received its world premiere at the 2010 South by Southwest Film Festival.