Unity through fútbol

PHLAFF presents José Carlos García and Carlos Granda’s ‘Identidad’

2 minute read
‘Identidad’ follows the sunrise on a new national dream. (Image courtesy of Quechua Films.)
‘Identidad’ follows the sunrise on a new national dream. (Image courtesy of Quechua Films.)

Rather than postponing the 6th annual Philadelphia Latino Film Festival, organizers made the featured films available to stream online. Directed by José Carlos García and Carlos Granda, the spotlight documentary Identidad (As We Are) reflects on Peru’s tumultuous history, leading up to its triumphant return to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

The film skillfully weaves together intergenerational stories and interviews from various members of Peruvian society, including historians, artists, professional fútbol players, and locals on the street. Framing Peru’s passion for fútbol at the heart of the film, Identidad explores how patriotism, unity, and fútbol intersect against the backdrop of social and political turmoil.

Erupting in cheers

Until its appearance in the 2018 World Cup, Peru’s national fútbol team was virtually nonexistent on an international scale and couldn’t compete with other thriving teams in South America. Living through a history rife with struggle, Peruvians were too preoccupied with terrorism, military dictatorships, and an economic crisis to produce quality fútbol players.

Interviews with the 2018 Peru National fútbol team include players recounting memories of the moment they qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, after 36 years of absence. Players describe the pivotal match as an electric culmination of decades of sorrow being met with passionate celebration. As the match was clinched, the stadium erupted in boisterous cheers accompanied by tears of joy. Images of elderly Peruvians crying alongside younger generations depict fútbol’s importance in the landscape of Peruvian culture and the larger significance to the community as a whole.

Not just football fans

An avid sports fan myself, I still didn’t quite understand the magnitude of fútbol’s significance in Latin America until I studied abroad in Santiago, Chile. During the 2010 World Cup, I experienced firsthand how momentous the competition is in South America. Tents were set up across my university’s campus, where students and faculty could watch matches at any hour. Class was canceled during any national match, and for 30 days it felt as if nothing mattered but fútbol. Air horns blew at 3am for matches broadcast from the other side of the globe.

As Identidad demonstrates, a national team at the World Cup equates to a country suddenly unified. Seeing fans’ passion for the sport, you understand that their tears of elation represent something greater than triumph over an opposing team.

Peru, where I traveled for a month in 2019, continues to have major divides amongst different social classes, Indigenous populations, and corrupt political leaders. A fútbol stadium places all of these different people in one space, momentarily allowing them to forget what divides them. The film urges Peruvians to use that patriotism to heal decades of political and societal wounds. Identidad is for not only fútbol fans, but for anyone interested in learning about Peru’s culture and history through the lens of the sport, portraying Peruvians’ passion for fútbol as an extension of their love and pride for their community.

What, When, Where

Identidad (As We Are). Directed by José Carlos García & Carlos Granda. Livestreamed at the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival on June 6, 2020. PHLAFF 2020 ran from June 4 through 7. phlaff.org

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