Society

Netflix adds new film about Pelé to sports documentaries list

The film focuses on the period between 1958 and 1970 when Brazil won three of the five World Cups it owns and established itself as the country of football

Photo: REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli
  • The 108-minute film avoids comparisons with Maradona, Lionel Messi, or Cristiano Ronaldo;
  • Instead, the tribute focuses on Pelé’s pioneer status.

A new film about Pelé is the latest release in a series of documentaries that have been described as the golden age of sports films. Documentaries about American basketball player Michael Jordan, Argentine football player Diego Maradona and Brazilian Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna are delighting fans with their behind-the-scenes views of the performance and personality of the great sports stars.

Pelé, released this Tuesday on Netflix, aims to give the same treatment to a man who is synonymous with Brazil worldwide.

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“I think we thought he was a guy that everyone, including football fans, had a very superficial knowledge of,” said co-director Ben Nicholas to Reuters. “But we wanted to explain how this boy became the mythical character he became.”

The film focuses on the period between 1958 and 1970 when Brazil won three of the five World Cups it owns and established itself as the country of football.

Off the field, the glory days of the late 1950s, when Brazil’s unique cultural production took the world by storm, gave way to dark times in the wake of the 1964 military coup.

The main focus is on Pelé’s role in the triumphs of the three World Cups, and particularly in the 1970 World Cup when he took what is considered one of the greatest football teams of all time to victory in Mexico.

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Success, the directors said, was vital to the creation of the Pelé myth. After debuting at the 1958 World Cup at the age of 17, Pelé was injured in the second game of 1962 and only played a small role.

He got hurt again after suffering persistent fouls in the 1966 tournament in England and threatened never to play another World Cup, but he changed his mind, deciding that taking the Brazilian team to the title in 1970 would consolidate him as a legend.

“If Pelé and Brazil don’t win in 1970, he doesn’t become Pelé and Brazil doesn’t really become Brazil,” said co-director David Tryhorn. “This is the quality seal of Pelé’s identity and the country’s identity.”

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The 108-minute film avoids comparisons with Maradona, Lionel Messi, or Cristiano Ronaldo, three players often cited as rivals to Pele for the title of the greatest player in history.

Instead, the tribute focuses on Pelé’s pioneer status.

“I know there were great players before him, but he was the real pioneer, he was Elvis, he was Neil Armstrong,” said Tryhorn.

Besides sports documentaries, Francisco Ramos, Vice President of Latin American Originals at Netflix, told NaTelinha that “producing a Brazilian soap opera is part of the plan” for the streaming giant.

(Translated and co-written by LABS)

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