"Next Goal Wins" is an irresistible underdog story — sports-fan credentials not required. The lively documentary follows the biggest loser in international soccer as it tries to break a 17-year winless streak.
To use the word "organization" is putting too fine a point on it: The team in question resides in the South Pacific territory of American Samoa, and the volunteer players are about as far removed as you can get — geographically and every other way — from the business of high-profile, high-stakes athletics.
Their island culture, laid back but intense in its interconnectedness, comes across vividly in the debut film by British commercial directors Mike Brett and Steve Jamison. Looking behind the scenes of a well-documented story, they tap into that collective spirit and also benefit from a couple of striking personalities in the appealing lineup.
One is Jaiyah Saelua, the first transgender athlete to compete in a World Cup qualifying game. Born Johnny and identifying as a woman, Saelua is a member of the fa'afafine, a third-gender tradition that places Samoa centuries ahead of the industrialized world in terms of openness and acceptance.