Review: ‘This Is Not a Ball’ spins art project into views of soccer


The soccer documentary “This Is Not a Ball” revolves around an art project by its co-director, Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, who creates artwork using unconventional materials like chocolate and sugar. Here he orchestrates two identical installations involving 20,000 soccer balls at Mexico City’s Azteca stadium and Rio de Janeiro’s favela Vidigal.

Although the logistics of his project are indeed fascinating, the subject is a tough sell as a feature-length documentary. So Muniz trots around a dozen countries to expound on the topic of soccer from every angle imaginable: the scientific with Neil deGrasse Tyson, the professional with Brazilian star Marta Vieira da Silva, the design with the Adidas lab in Germany, the manufacturing with sweatshops in Pakistan, the human interest with a league for the disabled in Sierra Leone.

The film is certainly interesting, despite the fact that it’s a glorified promotional video for Muniz’s installations. Proceeds from sales of the soccer balls he uses will go toward charitable causes, and Muniz does make the sport very approachable for the uninitiated. But he isn’t a documentarian, and the whole is less than the sum of the parts — a reality that becomes evident when, for example, the filmmaker allocates a measly two minutes to a politically charged, pivotal moment in protests last year in Rio de Janeiro, where the World Cup will start next week.


“This Is Not a Ball”

MPAA rating: None.

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Playing: At Laemmle’s Town Center 5, Encino.