If only wars could be waged on the soccer field instead of the battlefield. That noble thought drives much of the inspirational documentary "After the Cup: Sons of Sakhnin United," which spotlights Bnei Sakhnin, the first soccer team from an Arab town in Israel to win the coveted State Cup. Not unlike last year's "Invictus," the film presents a strong example of sports' ability to bond the most disparate groups, even as political forces work to keep them apart.
Cinematically, though, "After the Cup" lacks the intimacy and narrative focus needed for a more wholly involving experience. True, director Christopher Browne often brings a kinetic energy to his portrait of this unique team, a national symbol of co-existence comprising Arab, Jewish and foreign-born players guided by an Arab owner and a Jewish coach. But Browne's attempt to follow the Bnei Sakhnin's post-Cup year, in which these underfunded underdogs from the Lower Galilee struggle to survive in the country's Premier League, over-relies on interviews with the team's captain, coach and president at the expense of fully acquainting us, individually and collectively, with the other players.
Still, the soccer footage, although not the centerpiece one might expect, provides a vivid sense of the game's ardent, sometimes inflammatory fans and its significant place within the Israeli zeitgeist.
"After the Cup: Sons of Sakhnin United." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes. In English, Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles. At Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills.