UK Release Date: 29th July 2018
Runtime: 97 minutes
Director: Louis Myles
Writer: Louis Myles
Starring: Carlos Henrique Raposo, Bernardo De Paula
Synopsis: The remarkable true story of a Brazilian conman who managed to win himself a career in professional football without any talent on the pitch, but a serious ability to spin a tall tale.
Documentary filmmakers love con men. Movies like Bart Layton’s The Imposter trade on the idea of subjective truth to weave complex tales of people who have lived in a world full of lies for their entire existence. The title character of Kaiser, subtitled The Greatest Footballer Never to Play Football, is a prime example of a con man who believes his own deceit. As an interviewee says in the final moments of this doc, “if you tell the same lie, it becomes the truth”, and that is certainly true for the man known as Kaiser. For almost 30 years, he convinced the Brazilian football establishment he was a star – despite having no skill on the pitch.
It’s a remarkable true story and it’s one that director Louis Myles tells with ample support from the kaleidoscopic, colourful world of Brazil’s football scene. The unique charisma – known as ‘ginga’ – with which the nation’s greatest talents play the game provides the perfect backdrop for a documentary that is as much a love letter to the unpredictability of the sport as it is to the strange, occasionally infuriating scumbag at the centre of this particular story. In a world driven by ‘ginga’, a man with sufficient flair always has the chance to find an opening.
That’s the opening exploited by Carlos Henrique Raposo, known by the name Kaiser, who somehow managed to gain contracts at top Brazilian football teams, without ever kicking the ball. Early in the documentary, it’s said that he was so ignorant he almost “didn’t know the ball was round” and would do anything not to spend any time on the pitch, lest his teams uncover his ruse. He filled the gaps with rampant charisma, an insatiable sexuality and unbelievable skills as a manipulator willing to ride his luck as far as it will carry him.
Kaiser’s not necessarily a particularly likeable guy, and Myles is keen to let his audience decide whether they warm to the man behind the lies. Even a moment of seemingly genuine emotion in the final stages of the movie is shot with an impartial detachment, allowing the audience to make up its own mind as to whether this is the facade slipping or just another entry in the mythology of this crazy man. It’s telling that Kaiser features interviews with top football stars who, themselves, seem split on the story. Brazil legend Zico describes him as an “affront” to the sport, while the equally iconic Renato Gaúcho seems to appreciate his gall.
This is a film that, itself, seems fascinated by its story. Kaiser has a tendency to repeat itself as it goes over the methods its protagonist used to ingratiate himself with the management of each of his teams. It loses some of its energy, but wins it back with the final emotional salvo – a surprising blast of heart and apparent reality, even if it doesn’t quite ring as true as it could. This is a mad story and the task of bringing it to the big screen is huge and intimidating, but Myles is definitely up to the challenge, and the result is one of the most enjoyable sporting documentaries of the last few years.
Pop or Poop?
The tangled, ambiguous story of Carlos Henrique Raposo is the compelling heart of Kaiser – a documentary that serves as a love letter to the weirdest corners of the Beautiful Game and an examination of an enigmatic oddball with an eye for a scam.
Director Louis Myles plays it fairly straight in terms of viewpoint, allowing the audience to make up their own minds about Kaiser. He’s a man who doesn’t even seem to know when he, himself, is lying and so the movie can’t possibly offer a concrete answer.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.