2017 Sundance Docs in Focus: THE WORKERS CUP

workers cupTHE WORKERS CUP
Adam Sobel follows the action as migrant workers building Qatar’s World Cup infrastructure compete in their own tournament.

Festival Section:
World Cinema Documentary Competition

UK (about Qatar)

Sundance Program Description:

When FIFA selected Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, the petroleum-rich country used its vast and wealthy resources to begin constructing state-of-the-art stadiums and facilities utilizing millions of migrant workers. THE WORKERS CUP follows a group of these men – from India, Kenya, Nepal, and Ghana – who, stuck in isolated camps, working arduous hours for unlivable wages, eagerly escape into a corporate-sponsored “workers welfare” soccer tournament of their own. While the tournament amounts to little more than a marketing ploy for those at the top, the laborers embrace the rare opportunity to let loose, compete, and prove themselves bona fide soccer champions.

Adam Sobel’s stirring and keenly observed documentary juxtaposes the freshly installed stadiums where the workers compete with the squalid and cramped corridors they return to at night. With an empathetic lens, Sobel showcases the collective willpower and humanity of men who refuse to allow trying circumstances sink their one shot at winning a tournament in the very stadiums the workers of Qatar sacrificed so much to construct.

Some Background:

  • Adam Sobel
    Sobel makes his feature directorial debut with this film. Past projects have also focused on the Middle East and on sports topics.


  • Rosie Garthwaite
    Garthwaite is a co-founder and executive producer of Doha-based production company Mediadente, which has produced content for Qatar TV, Channel 4, and the BBC, among other outlets. This is her first Sundance credit.

  • Ramzy Haddad
    Haddad also makes his Sundance debut. His previous work for Mediadente has included producing programs for networks including Al Jazeera, Quest Arabiya, CNN, BBC, and Channel 4.

Associate Producer:

  • Anne Sobel
    Sobel is a filmmaker, writer, and university lecturer, and Adam Sobel’s partner. This too marks her first Sundance credit.

Executive Producers:

  • Dennis Paul
    Paul makes his Sundance debut with this project.

  • Paul Miller
    This is Miller’s first documentary at the festival, but he previously produced Sundance narrative feature alums SNOW ANGELS (2007) and THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH (1995).

  • Anonymous


  • Lauren Wellbrock and Anne Jünemann
    This marks the first Sundance credit for both editors.

Why You Should Watch:
Sobel hones in on a handful of engaging workers, showing distinct personalities and backgrounds, but sharing an economic need that separates them from their family and homelands. Like the best of sports-focused stories, the film transcends the basic competition structure to illuminate larger issues at play – the disparity of the global economy and the exploitation of foreign workers. The film premieres as one of this year’s Day One screenings.

More Info:
Meet the Artist

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance 2017 Twitter list.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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