Ronnie Close, Serious Games, 2014, HD digital film, 18 minutes and 24 seconds.
Serious Games was filmed over the course of a month during the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The video juxtaposes grassroots football played by children in poverty-stricken favelas with the vast corporate aesthetics of the global sporting event. The newly-built stadiums were largely frequented by international tourists who could afford the expensive ticket prices, unlike many locals. The venues were fortified by metal barriers and giant adverts, watched over by military helicopters. Outside of the official World Cup spaces thrived spectacular carnivals: full of music, dancing and sequined costumes. In the streets were protests against the use of public money to fund the sporting event: activists lay in the road together, dressed up as superheroes and bound their mouths to represent the lack of coverage they received from the international press. Ronnie Close has overlaid large white text over the footage, with phrases describing crippling terror and state brutality: ‘the police began to fire teargas at us … they won’t let anyone leave … I can’t go home … [they] beat the shit out of us. I was injured on my arm and leg, then I was tasered’. ‘This is Brazil, this is the real world cup’, the subtitles exclaim. Serious Games reaches a climax as clips of football matches broadcast on TV are intercut with scenes of unarmed protesters fleeing mounted police through clouds of teargas. In the final scene, an activist amidst the disorder addresses Close directly: making an urgent account under extreme pressure. His eyes are sore and he continually glances to his left and right; it quickly becomes apparent that the film’s subtitles are a transcription of his testimony to the camera.