Hot Docs 2017: Our Review of ‘The Workers Cup’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Hot Docs 2017, Movies by - April 29, 2017
Hot Docs 2017: Our Review of ‘The Workers Cup’

The creative angle Adam Sobel takes for telling the story of migrant workers taking to low-paying, high-risk, and tightly-controlled jobs in construction for the 2022 Qatar World Cup is also what holds back the documentary.

While The Workers Cup finds great characters in its intimate look at these hopeful and manipulated workers, who come from worse lives in parts of Africa and Southeast Asia, it doesn’t have a lot to say about the biggest story, which is their treatment and corporate control.

We hear stories in the film from the workers about how their previous lives compare with their current one: they feel trapped and relate it to modern slavery. But Sobel is more a reporter than a storyteller; he doesn’t have much to say, he just wants to present a selection of conversations, fascinating and tragic as they are.

Of course those dialogues surround something bigger: a soccer tournament for the workers that is both full of excitement and rife with pandering. The film doesn’t much talk about the latter. Each major company fields a team from their workers in order to liven up spirits and of course, raise some publicity for what they are doing in the Middle East.

So we follow each game with our group of charming, funny, dedicated, and sometimes tense workers; and they are plenty exciting. You just can’t help but want so much more to this story: the lead is buried, not unlike the hopes and dreams of these young men.

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