FIFA film ‘United Passions’ makes muted debut in Los Angeles

At the first screening of FIFA-funded film "United Passions" in Los Angeles the week after US prosecutors charged several officials of world soccer's governing body, only two people attended – one out of curiosity, the other as a soccer fan.

The 2014 French film, starring British actor Tim Roth as FIFA president Sepp Blatter, had an estimated budget of 24 million euros ($27 million), of which FIFA officials have acknowledged providing about 20 million euros. 

The film, which explores the 111-year history of FIFA, attempts to show the organization as a force for good while also hinting at corruption and embezzlement without delving into it.

The opening Friday on demand in the United States and in limited theaters coincides with a scandal rocking world soccer after prosecutors unsealed indictments on May 27 in a case involving $150 million in bribes over 24 years. Blatter announced on Tuesday that he would resign.

Francisco Carrillo, 62, said he came to the midday showing of "United Passions" at the North Hollywood's Laemmle theater, the only one in Los Angeles showing the film, because he is a fan of soccer, popular in his home country, Mexico. 

"I like the World Cup, and the rules of soccer," he said. Carrillo said he had followed the scandal but came just for "entertainment."

Freelance sports writer Alex Goot, 31, said he was curious to gauge interest in the film. 

"Even before the scandals and indictments unfolded, I wondered, who is the audience for this story? Even dedicated fans aren't going to care about FIFA in the boardroom," he said. 

U.S. distributor Screen Media Films did not respond to requests for comment on Friday on why it chose to release the film at this time. 

Goot said people who went to watch the film amid the scandal would not find much enlightenment in it.

"It feels very strange," Goot said. "It's not a movie presenting any true history."

Directed by French filmmaker Frederic Auburtin and also starring Gerard Depardieu and Sam Neill, "United Passions" has failed to win the praise of critics. 

The New York Times reviewer Daniel M. Gold called it "one of the most unwatchable films in recent memory, a dishonest bit of corporate-suite sanitizing that's no good even for laughs." 

Jordan Hoffman of British newspaper The Guardian called the film "a disgrace" and "excrement."

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