“DIAMANTINO”—A Disgraced Football Star


A Disgraced Football Star

Amos Lassen

I can’t place “Diamantino” into any one genre. It mixes sci-fi, comedy, fantasy and more it follows Diamantino, a disgraced football star who is attempting a comeback. On his search for redemption he comes face-to-face the refugee crisis, genetic modification, neo-fascism, giant puppies and the hunt for the source of the genius.

As Diamantino (Carloto Cotta) narrates, it feels like we’re in his head. He speaks about how he feels when he plays football, encountering refugees for the first time and accidentally being investigated for fraud by the government. The characters seem to be like they are in a fairytale from the lovably naïve Diamantino, to his evil twin sisters who abuse him at every chance, to the loony scientist attempting to capture his genius and make clones of the football star to build the world’s strongest football team. This is a fun film to watch and therefore hard to speak about so I don’t ruin your enjoyment.

“Diamantino” is a wild ride from start to finish with a lovably naïve character in the middle of it all. This is a  modern-day fairytale response about celebrity culture. Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt’s genre (and gender) brings us a sharp comedy romance  with this film. It is part celebrity football satire, part laughing at modern society with fantasy/science fiction elements.

“We quickly learn that Diamantino is an easily manipulated guy, whose twin sisters (Anabela and Margarida Moreira) are secretly laundering his cash – a plan that the secret service believe to be his. As Diamantino falls from football grace, he simultaneously becomes aware of the plight of refugees and decides to adopt one. This is the excuse the secret service need to plant lesbian investigator Aisha (Cleo Tavares) in his house, posing as a refugee teenage boy, who begins to get wind of a second sinister plot that sees a group of right-wing EU sceptics treating Diamantino as a disposable experiment in order to instigate the Portuguese equivalent of Brexit.”

No matter how crazily the plot twists, it’s the purity of Diamantino that keeps us hooked. Cotta plays it straight all the way as an innocent abroad in a world of potential evil, his interactions with Aisha are full of silly sweetness. Abrantes and Schmidt keep things light and constantly inventive, but Diamantino’s perpetual selflessness makes the darker satire about the creep of right-wing ‘build that wall’ ideology hit us hard. The film has a message about the importance of tolerance, love and silliness in the face of the darker elements of modern life.. We have humor, a mix of genres and an inane plot full of topical nods at important issues. The result is a surprisingly entertaining film which also manages to comment on subjects like gender fluidity and the nature of celebrity, desire and love.

Diamantino is the world’s foremost soccer star who also happens to look suspiciously like Cristiano Ronaldo, as if recalling the events of the film from a distant point in the future. He begins by describing his close bond with his father who taught him how to play the game and of his father’s fondness for beautiful church ceilings and how they made him look up at them. Simultaneously, a drone looks down into another place of faith, a football stadium where among deafening cheers Portugal plays a game and Diamantino gears up to take a shot while being surrounded by giant, fluffy puppies that roll around in a candy floss-filled environment. The puppies are the player’s magic charm and it is when he stops seeing them in the field that his troubles begin.

Diamantino, we learn, has the cognitive abilities of a child, but his heart is full of love and good intentions and following both career and personal tragedies, and already affected by the plight of refugees who are forced to flee their own country, he decides to adopt one to shower all his love on. It is at this point that another narrative element joins in the form of Aisha (Cleo Tavares), a lesbian government agent who wishes to investigate the football star’s finances by absurdly posing as a refugee boy and Diamantino’s newly-adopted son. Also involved in this increasingly bizarre and complex story are two evil twin sisters, an agent dressed as a nun with a bunny headpiece, Diamantino’s face on bedspreads and an anti-European Union subplot which involves cloning and scientific experiments to find the source of the athlete’s genius.

Apart from its political relevance and directness, there is a general non-serious tone and awareness of the inanity going on. The notions of innocence and purity that define its central character making him both lovable and deserving of sympathy. The idea is also present in the eventual relationship that grows between Diamantino and Aisha, free as it is from all labels and definitions. Despite his burnished physique and skills on the field, Diamantino remains child-like and helpless, and in a welcome reversal of roles, needs Aisha to rescue him from the troubles that he gets into.