Fintar O Destino

English Title: Fintar O Destino

Original Title: Fintar O Destino

Country of Origin: Cape Verde, Portugal

Studio: David and Golias

Director: Fernando Vendrell

Producer(s): Luís Alvarães, Fernando Vendrell

Screenplay: Carla Baptista, Fernando Vendrell

Cinematographer: Luis Correia

Editor: Pedro Ribeiro

Runtime: 77 minutes

Genre: Sports Drama

Language: Criolo, Kabuverdianu and Portu

Starring/Cast: Figueira Cid, Manuel Estevão, Carlos Germano, Elíseo Leite, Paulo Miranda

Year: 1998

Volume: African / Nigerian

Fifty-year old Mané (Carlos Germano) is a figure larger than life in his small town of Mindelo, on the island of Saõ Vincente, Cape Verde. He’s a famous soccer player, who could have actually tried out for the Portuguese team Benfica in 1959, had he not married Lucy, a local girl (Betina Lopes). Now, Mané coaches soccer to teenagers who revere him, and runs a small bar, where local soccer fans gather to root for Benfica. Yet, Mané is deeply unsatisfied with his life. Consumed by regrets, he sinks into alcoholism and ignores his wife and family. His big dream is that his protégé Kalu (Paulo Miranda), a promising young soccer player, will leave the island and play for a major Portuguese team; yet the teenager dreams of emigrating to America or of remaining on the island with his girlfriend.  When Benfica is set to play at the Portuguese Finals, Mané has a midlife crisis – he steals his wife’s savings and flies to Lisbon to watch the match, convinced that without his attendance, Benfica will lose. On the mainland, Mané learns some hard lessons and returns to Mindelo humbled, and somewhat reconciled with his island fate.

Fintar O Destino differs from most sports films circulating about racial or gender minorities (e.g. Invictus, More Than Just a Game, Pride, The Great White Hope, Hoop Dreams, Love and Basketball, Offside, etc.) which generally celebrate youth, masculinity, triumph over adversity, team-building, social reconciliation, multiculturalism or gender equity. By contrast, this sports drama resists many of these generic themes, in that it features a nostalgic, aging soccer hero, who mourns the loss of his masculinity and social status, feels divorced from his family and local community, and is unable to reconcile with his ordinary fate post-retirement. Mané’s soccer fandom is also not viewed in a positive light, but rather as a form of dangerous, destructive and discriminatory fanaticism. While in many sports films, sports are heralded as a panacea for all types of social ills, here sports are likened to a band-aid solution – as games or child’s play.  The many scenes of soccer practice and soccer matches are paralleled with various scenes of other games, such as chess or children playing in the streets. Mané’s clients at the bar, all avid sports fans, are largely unemployed loiterers who cannot afford to pay for their drinks. Joaquim, the only paying customer, at one point has a dispute with Mané, chiding, “You just played football. I worked all my life.” Throughout the film, soccer, as puerile play, is contrasted with work, often depicted as manual labour. For instance, the film opens with a shot of a labourer hoeing arid dirt; only later do viewers realize it’s a youth idealistically marking out a soccer field.
Island life is also a central theme of Fintar O Destino. While Cape Verde is often celebrated as a quaint, relaxing tropical paradise, as in the songs of Cesaria Evora, here it is depicted as a imprisoning dead-end, with few viable prospects.  As the town’s schoolteacher observes, “on an island, men fear staying more than leaving.” Shots of the island’s arid volcanic landscape and its concrete cityscape, as well as long sequences of waiting, watching or idly passing time, cultivate this sentiment of sterility and stagnancy. The only way to leave is by boat or plane, and Mané spends much of the film raffling off his bicycle, which his friends ridicule because it can never leave the island. In the film’s closing scene, Mané, transformed by his journey to the mainland, finally rides off into the sunset on his bicycle. This last shot also finally presents us with lyrical images of the island’s tropical coast.  
The turning point in the film is clearly Mané’s journey to Portugal, and to the Finals match in the Lisbon Stadium; thus the film also addresses the dream of emigration, as well as dream fulfillment. On his trip, both of Mané’s idealistic aspirations are shattered – with his anti-soccer son who escaped Cape Verde, with his former teammate Americo who made it big but now lives in a shanty town, and with a scalper, who robs Mané of his money. As in the traditional immigrant journey then, Mané is forced to gain more realistic expectations through a series of transformative obstacles.  Though he returns home humbled and exhausted by the mainland where “one must be as sly as a fox”, the film does not suggest that Mané returns a more practical man. Rather, our hero has simply learned that imaginary journeys are more satisfying than real ones. As Mané explains in his concluding speech to Kanu, “you can go anywhere you like with your imagination”.

Author of this review: Madelaine Hron