FIFA-Backed Soccer Movie Gets Panned by Critics and Fans

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Blatter And Depardieu
FIFA President Sepp Blatter, actor Gerard Depardieu and director Frederic Auburtin arrive for the screening of the film "United Passions" at Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 2014. Photographer: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

Days after the U.S. government filed corruption charges against nine FIFA officials, a version of history backed by the soccer organization hit U.S theaters, greeted by a red card from critics and mostly empty seats.

“United Passions,” a star-filled dramatization funded by FIFA and distributed in the U.S. by Screen Media Films, opened in 10 locations Friday and for purchase online. It collected about $634 in ticket sales Friday and Saturday, said two people with knowledge of the matter. Sunday’s take will probably bring the total to $1,000, said one of the people, who asked not to be named disclosing private box-office data.

The tally and global results since the initial release at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2014 point to a financial flop. FIFA paid $27 million toward financing “United Passions,” according to the organization, and it has collected $178,000 in ticket sales in the past year, researcher Rentrak Corp. said. In addition to Cannes and now the U.S., “United Passions” has been released in Serbia, Italy, France, Portugal, Hungary and India, according to Imdb.com.

FIFA “gave us a total freedom regarding the script and the making of the film, they only gave the director historical details when we asked,” David Poirot, a spokesman for co-producer Thelma Films, said in an e-mailed statement, while declining to comment on the box-office results. Leuviah Films, the other producer, directed questions to Thelma Films and Screen Media declined to comment.

Soccer Budget

FIFA said in an e-mail that the cost of the film came out of the budget for the 2014 World Cup.

The 10 locations showing the film included the Laemmle NoHo in suburban Los Angeles and Cinema Village in New York, according to the film’s website.

The film follows the rise of three FIFA presidents: Jules Rimet, Joao Havelange and Sepp Blatter, who said last week he would step down as scandal engulfed the group. “United Passions” has been panned by critics, with the Guardian newspaper calling it propaganda and “cinematic excrement.”

None of the nine reviews at Rottentomatoes.com, which aggregates critics’ remarks, gave it a positive rating.

Well-known actors take on the lead roles. Tim Roth, known for his parts in Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs,” plays Blatter, while Gerard Depardieu is Rimet and Havelange is played by Sam Neil.

FIFA provided footage for the movie, according to the credits, where Blatter is personally thanked by co-producer Leuviah Films.

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The film includes scenes that stand out in light of the bribery allegations. In one, Roth, as Blatter, reveals South Africa has been chosen to host the 2010 soccer World Cup. Last week, Charles Blazer, a former FIFA executive committee member, said he accepted bribes to influence voting for the 2010 host country.

The film “comes across as a squirm-inducing heap of propaganda at its most self-congratulatory,” Michael Rechtshaffen wrote in the Los Angeles Times.

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