Offside documentary film review

★★

Directed by: #MiguelGaudencio

Documentary film review by: BrianPenn

Women’s football was once treated with antipathy by the game’s administrators and nothing more than an inferior companion to the male version. Happily, the last ten years have seen the women’s game expand, attracting large attendances and lucrative sponsorship. However, Offside seems to have missed the point with this ponderous film by Miguel Gaudencio. It follows Olimpia Szczecin in their pre-season warm-up for Poland’s female league.


Black and white film provides visually sharp contours but totally overlooks any notion of narrative and context. The first 50 minutes are spent watching the team in training; all we hear is the coach barking orders and discussing tactics with players. There is no commentary to give the subject matter any real structure. Some background on the women’s game in Poland would have been useful; as would a brief history of the club’s origins.


We learn absolutely nothing about the players, when a couple of interviews might have introduced the star striker and team captain. The first actual clip of a game was a cup final which took place in a school gymnasium. Two minutes of action was followed by half an hour of the team in training (again). An hour into the film captions appear finally introducing the players; Mloda, Zwedka, Ancior and Becia but nothing on their role or position in the team. Players receiving treatment was a good opportunity to build the narrative. Get them to talk about their hopes for the coming season – but apparently not.


Players on the coach travelling to their last warm-up match is no more illuminating; they are filmed looking out of the window which does nothing to set the scene for a suitable finale. As the closing frames fade to black we learn that Olimpia won 8 out of 9 games in pre-season. They subsequently finished 6th in the women’s league and qualified for the Polish Cup. My mouth dropped to the floor reading that final caption. Why would anyone focus on pre-season training? From a film maker’s point of view the real drama is captured during the season. Key matches, pivotal moments that affect promotion and relegation. It’s a clumsy approach that frankly betrays the beautiful game.