Copa 71 is both a celebratory look of the 1971 Women’s World Cup and a damning indictment of male dominance and greed in sports. Here’s our Copa 71 review.
Executive produced by Venus and Serena Williams and Isha Price, and directed by James Erskine and Rachel Ramsay, Copa 71 recalls the 1971 Women’s World Cup which was, until now, erased from sports history.
It follows in the footsteps of documentaries like Quest Love’s Summer of Soul in combining lost footage and present day interviews with women soccer players from around the world as they recall the groundbreaking event. Together, the footage and interviews create a sense of grandeur surrounding the event; the sense that something groundbreaking had indeed happened.
While the film is a celebration of the accomplishments of these pioneering women, it’s also a scathing indictment on the male dominated media and football federations who, through jealously and greed following the event, systematically destroyed women’s football, setting it back decades.
It’s also an indictment on FIFA who, to this day, do not recognize the 1971 Women’s World Cup which still holds the record for the largest audience in the history of women’s sports with 110,000 spectators.
Making matters worse are shots of more “recent” soccer stars, like Brandi Chastain viewing the archival footage and learning about the tournament for the first time, all while wondering why they had never heard about that tournament before.
But it also begs even greater questions about the history we have been taught and through who’s eyes that history has been told? And, are there more histories to be uncovered?
In recent years, films like Summer of Love, Black Ice, which includes the forgotten Colored Hockey League, and Chevalier, which recounts the forgotten legacy and accomplishments of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-George, who is not widely recognized as being among the greatest composers, are pointing to a familiar trend. The histories of marginalized groups are being overlooked and eventually lost, while more male Euro-centric histories are taught and passed on.
But despite the obstacles, it’s not all doom and gloom. The film does provide some hope in how far the women’s game has advanced despite the obstacles they’ve had to overcome.
Overall, this film really is an emotionally charged must-see. It’s not just a documentary about women’s soccer, but about society on a whole. It’s not only essential for sports fans, but for history buffs, those who are passionate about women’s issues, and for people who simply like a good story about overcoming the odds.
SHIFTER editor and Senior Entertainment Reporter, Kevin Bourne, is a Toronto-based entertainment journalist focusing on Black music and film & TV. He was named one of 310 international voters for the 81st Golden Globe Awards by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and a Tomatometer-Approved Critic by Rotten Tomatoes.