During the lead up to a championship-deciding match, Argentinian footballer Tomas Farina lets his director brother Martin take a unique look at the life of a professional player. Farina’s camera takes us where Sky’s can’t, catching the players at their most vulnerable and intimate. Recommended to football fans and athlete fetishists alike, Fulboy peaks behind the shower curtain of professional football, while reflecting on the point and decency of doing so.
The most popular sport in the world is a significant part of many people’s lives. Teams bring their fans weekly bouts of happiness, frustration, anger and disappointment. Attend an important match in any league and you’ll witness a relentless, sometimes disturbing passion, as the beautiful game transforms even the most respectable members of public into hooligans.
But how much do fans really consider their heroes once they’ve left the pitch? Beyond headlines of racism, drugs and adultery, it’s easy to forget that the global superstars of top-flight football are real people, with real lives and real families to feed. It’s clear what football is to the fans, the press and the sponsors. But through his unique relationship with the club, Martin Farina sets out to discover what football is to the player.
Farina paints football as a career that’s harsh and unpredictable, and one which isn’t just 90 minutes a week. Slow, drawn-out scenes ooze with the tension and anxiety of a pre-match training week. When the players aren’t training they’re waiting to train, moments which Farina examines closely. They talk about impressing other clubs, about making ends meet with their little pay, about their futures after this naturally short-lived career. Farina focuses on the players obsessing over haircuts, as they’re forced to uphold the public image that will hopefully carry their careers. As some make calls to the families they miss, the silent contemplation of others suggests the homesickness is shared. As one player says, they’re men locked in hotel rooms.
But this is BFI Flare, and Fulboy isn’t just about the hardships of a career in football. It also exhibits a casual eroticism, as Farina’s camera takes us into the locker rooms to catch trivial conversations from moments of undress. Players are watched showering, sometimes teasingly concealed by steam, other times shamelessly full frontal. Farina lets us gaze uninterrupted at the players’ most prized assets, as everything from massaged legs to the rough skin on their feet is daringly fetishized. For many, Fulboy would be the ultimate voyeur experience.
And then, in the true tradition of Queer Cinema, the film delves beneath the interesting premise and erotic surface, and interrogates the foundations of the medium itself. It’s the players that question Farina’s editorial control, debating what should and can be included in the film to make it “the real truth”. Farina offers a unique experience of hearing footballers debate the limitations of cinematic realism, as they list what the film can’t possibly show, like the team’s background relationships with each other, and whatever they talk about when Farina leaves. The players remind us of the shortcomings of film in portraying reality. In a medium full of gaps, everything he shows just a partial truth.
Most self-reflexively, some of the players question Farina’s aesthetic choices and intentions, seeming him as the voyeur, an intruder. They make the point that Fulboy has two contradictory intentions: to be truthful and to be erotic. One particularly sceptical and confrontational player accuses Farina of wanting him to take a girl back to the hotel, because it would be an ideal scene. Jumping to his own defence for the first and only time, Farina agrees it would be a great scene, but says he would not impose it as an ideal one. But this conversation reminds us, as does Fulboy as a whole, that Farina has picked and edited the scenes which capture the intrigue and eroticism he was after.