The IMDb page for United Passions, a feature film that was largely financed by world soccer governing body FIFA, reads: “The saga of the World Cup and the three wholly honest and ethical men who created it.” With FIFA embroiled in a growing corruption scandal — and today’s news that embattled president Sepp Blatter has resigned after 17 years in the post — is Friday’s theatrical and VOD release the most poorly-timed ever, or a stroke of serendipitous good fortune?
Screen Media Films is handling Stateside distribution of the film (see trailer above which has a number of refernces to FIFA deals) that was poorly-received at its 2014 Official Selection screening out of competition in Cannes. The company’s president Suzanne Blech tells me a plan was already in place for the United Passions release prior to last week’s arrests of six top FIFA officials on several corruption charges. Screen Media acquired it after lengthy negotiations this year and changed the tag line to “The Birth Of The World Cup.” There are no plans to alter the release pattern after Blatter’s resignation today, she says. Earlier this week, Belch wrote in an email, “We got lucky with the scandal breaking last week.”
Although Blatter on Saturday swatted away suggestions he could face U.S. Justice Department investigators, and now given his resignation, the media spotlight is brighter on him than ever before. So, the question is, will folks turn out to see, or download, a film about one of the most criticized organizations — and executives — in sports?
United Passions has some pedigree. It was directed by Frédéric Auburtin (Paris, Je T’Aime) and stars Tim Roth as Blatter, Gérard Depardieu as World Cup creator Jules Rimet and Sam Neill as former FIFA president Joao Havelange. It traces 100 years of the history of FIFA, but is said to skirt the corruption allegations that have dogged it for years. The logline originally put forth by sales agent TF1 International called it “An epic, untold story that brings to life the inspiring saga of the World Cup and the three determined men who created it.”
Originally pegged for international audiences ahead of last summer’s World Cup, the film ultimately saw theatrical releases only in Serbia, Portugal and Hungary with a DVD release in France. Now, it’s going out Stateside a week after Blatter was re-elected — and, as of this afternoon, just a few days after his resignation.
Screen Media is releasing in individual cinemas in NYC, LA, Phoenix, Miami, Minneapolis, Washington DC, Houston, Dallas, Philadelphia and Kansas City.