You Should Stream: In This Moving Doc, Oakland’s Undocumented Youth Find Joy & Healing in Soccer

Lead Photo: 'Futbolistas 4 Life' Courtesy of the filmmakers
'Futbolistas 4 Life' Courtesy of the filmmakers
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Never underestimate the power of soccer. That’s the underlying message of Jun Stinson’s Futbolistas 4 LifeThe documentary follows two Oakland high schoolers. Benjamin is a DACA applicant who’s navigating the reality of his immigration status, and April was born in California, but lives in fear that her undocumented parents may be deported. They are part of “Futbolistas 4 Life” a school program run by coach Dania that emphasizes the liberating power of soccer. After all, on the field – where you’re focused solely on your passes, your running, and your physical movements – is for many kids the only space where they can leave their worries behind.

In the spirit of other sports-based films that put Latino stories front and center — see Skate Kitchen, Varsity Punksand fellow doc Home + Away — Stinson’s documentary sheds light on how exercise and play are key to healthy educational programs. April, who we see dealing with anxiety attacks but who truly dominates the field when she plays, talks about soccer as a haven. “It’s a way to cope with things that we don’t know to cope with.”

Using animated sequences to detail Benjamin and April’s fears of ICE raids and the treacherous border crossings that led their families to Oakland, Futbolistas 4 Life is equal parts informative and eye-opening. It truly delves into what it feels for immigrant youth living in communities with high rates of poverty and violence, communities increasingly in the crosshairs of harsh federal immigration policies. Add in the message of empowerment we see when Dania’s students begin fundraising and writing grants to be able to develop their own neighborhood soccer field, and you’ve got yourself an uplifting sports flick for the DACA era. As Dania, whose family fled from Chile, tells us at one point in the film, “I believe that in playing we can create freedom, even if it’s just for a few minutes.”

You can stream Futbolistas 4 Life in full below.