Arts » Arts Stories & Interviews

Uruguay and ‘3 Millones': In soccer we trust


(full disclosure: the author of this post contacted and the filmmakers about screening this movie in San Antonio, but is not receiving any part of the proceeds of the film nor is associated with the making of it) Uruguay, a tiny South American country with a population of 3.3 million, is perhaps the most secular country in the Americas. Although officially Roman Catholic, Uruguay really has only two religions: politics and soccer. When Uruguay plays, the whole country stops. When Uruguay loses, the whole country cries. When Uruguay wins an important tournament, it is the only time the country is truly united on the streets in celebration. That's what happened in 1924 (Colombes, France) and 1928 (Amsterdam, Holland), when Uruguay beat Switzerland and Argentina, respectively, for the Olympic gold; it happened again at home in 1930, beating arch-rival Argentina in the first official FIFA World Cup, and finally in the historic 1950 final against Brazil, the biggest upset in the history of World Cup finals. It would be the last time Uruguay would be crowned as the king of world soccer. In 1970, Uruguay reached the fourth place in Mexico, which was considered a failure, and from then on it was calamity after calamity. In spite of winning South America's Cup on 14 occasions (only Argentina has as many), Uruguay was no longer a world soccer power and, on top of everything, had justifiably earned a reputation as one of the world's dirtiest soccer teams. Then, something clicked. A generation of players led by Diego Forlán (now in Brazil's Inter) and Luis Suárez (now a Liverpool star) coupled with the expert managerial skills of Washington Tabárez (who, returning as coach after an unsuccessful run at the 1990 World Cup, stressed discipline, sacrifice, humility, and fair play) took Uruguay to the fourth place in South Africa's World Cup. It was an unexpected feat, especially considering Uruguay was the last team to qualify for the event, and had only done so after beating Costa Rica after two hard-fought home-and-away games in 2009. But this time, all Uruguayans celebrated the fourth place as if Uruguay had become the new champion. For the first time in a long time, Uruguay had become one of the world's top four teams, but the way in which they had done so earned them a newfound respect from the soccer world and the love of 3 million Uruguayans. 3 Millones is an inside look at Uruguay's amazing run in the 2010 World Cup, seen from the eyes of Jaime Roos (Uruguay's most influential musician) and his son Yamandú, a Dutch photographer and filmmaker. The Rooses, used to living in separate continents, had decided to reunite in Kimberley, the South African city where Uruguay would be staying during the cup's first round. While Yamandú went straight from Amsterdam to Kimberley, Jaime traveled with the Uruguayan team. The film starts at the Montevideo airport and shows the players inside the plane, in practices, in games (official FIFA footage), in individual interviews, and in cinema vérité-style moments. It has a superb soundtrack (courtesy of Jaime) and the games are much more than just the usual TV highlights: even if you've already seen these games or its highlights, 3 Millones shows and dissects each key play from different angles and with a commentary by Jaime, who narrates the film both as a knowledgeable fan and as an objective observer — the World Cup as you have never seen it before. This especially applies to the game against Ghana (unanimously chosen as the most dramatic in the World Cup) and against Holland (the most violent). Paradoxically, the consolation game against Germany for the third place (the only game in the tournament where the winner doesn't advance to the next round, because there is no next round) was considered the best game in the World Cup. But the film is also a road movie about a father and a son who hadn't seen each other for almost two years and who began filming an intimate home movie that, as Uruguay kept winning and winning, became a huge documentary that recently closed the Lincoln Center's Latinbeat Film Festival in New York. After the World Cup, the Uruguayan players were greeted as national heroes in Montevideo (the movie captured those moments as well) and, a year later, won the 15th South American Cup for La Celeste, more than any other country. The world has apparently learned how to play against Uruguay, who haven't updated its roster, and is now struggling to qualify for Brazil's 2014 World Cup. But this is a document from a glorious era that Uruguayans will never forget. This is a movie for soccer fans, yes, but also for anybody who enjoys stories of triumph for the underdog. — Enrique Lopetegui 3 Millones (3 Million) **** Dir. Jaime and Yamandú Roos; feat. Jaime Roos, Yamandú Roos, Luis Suárez, Diego Forlán, Sebastián Abreu, and the national soccer teams of Uruguay, France, South Africa, Mexico, South Korea, Ghana, Holland, and Germany. In Spanish, English, French, and Dutch, with English subtitles when needed. (not rated) $10, one night only 7:30 pm Thu, Nov 15 Santikos Palladium 17703 W IH-10 (210) 274-6916

Uruguay Diego Forlán, Golden Ball (MVP) winner of the 2010 World Cup.


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