Pelé: Birth of a Legend

Pelé: Birth of a Legend is an American biographical film about the early life of Brazilian footballer Pelé and his journey with Brazil to win the 1958 FIFA World Cup. The film is directed and written by Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist.

Pelé: Birth of a Legend.
Pelé (film poster).jpg
Production poster
Directed by
Produced by
Written by
  • Jeff Zimbalist
  • Michael Zimbalist
Music byA. R. Rahman
CinematographyMatthew Libatique
Edited by
Distributed byIFC Films
Release date
  • May 6, 2016 (2016-05-06) (United States)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2.3 million[1]

The film stars Kevin de Paula, Vincent D'Onofrio, Rodrigo Santoro, Diego Boneta, with Colm Meaney, and a cameo of Pelé himself. The film is centered on the relationship between the character Pelé and his father.

The principal photography started in Rio de Janeiro on September 2013, and the filming lasted until late 2014. The film was released to negative critical response, with film critics pointing out flaws in the narrative, criticising the lack of depth.


Under guidance from manager Vicente Feola (Vincent D'Onofrio), young Pelé (Kevin de Paula) utilizes his street football skills to lead Brazil to the World Cup in 1958.



The principal photography of the film began in Rio de Janeiro on September 30, 2013.[2][3] On February 9, 2014, it was announced that the film would not release at the time of 2014 FIFA World Cup, because it was in post-production and doing some re-shoots.[4]

The film was shot entirely on location in Brazil, with Leonardo Carvalho and Kevin de Paula playing the rising star at the age of 9 and 17, respectively. Pele stated: "The two young actors who play my younger self will be true stars, as their skills both on screen and on the football pitch proved."[5] Zimbalist stated that they wanted to concentrate on Pele's early life for dramatic reasons, giving the reason as: "It was the birth of the legend that parallels the birth of the Brazilian national identity, coming off the 1950 (World Cup) loss (to Uruguay) in Maracana stadium".[6] The film is centered on the relationship between Pele and his father.[6]

The Ginga StyleEdit

"Transpired from the Capoeira martial art style, ginga is what Brazilians are born with - a one-word collective of the way they move, walk, talk, feel and most importantly - play. It is the soul of Brazil, and one which had (and has) seemingly vanished from their football." [7]

Pelé's football style derives from Ginga. As explained by the character De Brito: "It is primitive, but it has a long and rich history ... It all started at the beginning of the 16th century ... The Portuguese arrived in Brazil with African slaves. But the African's will was strong, and many escaped to the jungle. To protect themselves, the run away slaves called upon the ginga, the foundation of Capoeira, the martial art of war. When slavery was finally abolished, the capoeiraistas came out of the jungle, only to find that capoeira was outlawed throughout the land. They saw football to be the perfect way to practice ginga without being arrested. It was the ultimate form of ginga. And before long the ginga evolved, adapted, until it was no longer just ours, but all Brazilians. But at the 1950 world cup, most believed our ginga style was to blame for the loss, and turned against anything associated with our African heritage. And just like your coach has been trying to remove ginga from your play, we have been trying to remove it from ourselves as a people ever since."


The film received mostly negative reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 33%, based on 30 reviews, with an average rating of 5.04/10.[8] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 39 out of 100, based on 11 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[9]

Critic Josh Terry of Deseret News said: "Overall, "Pelé: Birth of a Legend" is a solid sports film and a pleasant introduction to an international icon." However, he went on to add: "While "Birth of a Legend" touches on weighty subjects such as national identity and class tension, its tone often employs a frenetic highlight-reel style that gives its content more flash than depth."[10] In his review for The Salt Lake Tribune, Sean P. Means awarded the film 2 out of 5 stars saying: "...the script plods along from event to event, and the young actors portraying Pelé are bland and uninvolving."[11] Chief critic Alan Zilberman of The Washington Post concluded: "The film is too earnest and single-minded to be hagiographic, and the final moments are moving in spite of their predictable trajectories. ... the film would have benefitted if the Zimbalists had found a way to add a bit of depth — or even doubt — to the legend."[12] Robert Abele of TheWrap stated the biopic "scores zero goals" calling the treatment to the script as "burnishing".[13] In his review for The Village Voice, Michael Nordine expressed: "The new Pelé movie has great footwork but iffy, cheesy drama."[14] Michael Rechtshaffen of The Los Angeles Times stated: "[. ... ] script fails to satisfy the dramatic requirements of a narrative feature."[15] Andrew Barker of Variety commented: "The film is continually hamstrung by an uninspiring, ultra-traditionalist narrative."[16]


Pelé: Birth of a Legend (soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedScheduled for June 24, 2016 (2016-06-24)
Panchathan Record Inn and AM Studios, Chennai
Panchathan Hollywood Studios, Los Angeles
LabelSony Classical
ProducerA. R. Rahman
A. R. Rahman chronology
Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada / Sahasam Swasaga Sagipo
Pelé: Birth of a Legend (soundtrack)
Mohenjo Daro

The film score is composed by A. R. Rahman. In an interview with Press Trust of India, Rahman was quoted saying: "When I was approached for the project, I first Googled who Pelé was, because my life is all music. I saw amazing things about him and who he was. After that I read the script. I had tremendous respect for the project."[17] In September 2014, Rahman recorded the tracks that featured singer Anna Beatriz.[18] According to Rahman working on the Pelé project was intimidating but he found himself totally immersed in the Brazilian music, getting engaged in the character, in the lifestyle and setting of the movie.[19] He added that sometime in his childhood, he had listened to lot of Brazilian music.[19] The score and a couple of songs in this movie fall into western music genre.[20] On recording the score, Rahman stated that he used instruments like the charango, the mandolin, and a lot of percussion and brass instruments from Brazil. So, the soundtrack is a mix of many elements with universal music that reflects Brazilian culture.[21]

"Ginga" was a promotional track released as a video. The song was not initially a part of the screenplay, but came organically as Rahman was intrigued by the word 'Ginga', which is a style of playing football. Rahman stated: "Ginga was one of the main things how Pelé won a match. I found the word very interesting." By the time he finished recording the score, Rahman played the track to the makers who approved it.[17] In India, the song was launched at PVR Cinemas in Mumbai on May 9, 2016. At the event, Rahman elaborated on how YouTube videos and the existing Brazilian sounds helped him design the soundtrack and the theme for the movie.[22]

Track listingEdit

All music is composed by A. R. Rahman.

Pele (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
1."The Little Rascal"Anna Beatriz 
2."Reality"George Doering 
3."Father trains Pelé"A. R. Rahman 
4."Celeste's Theme"Nikhita Gandhi 
5."World Cup 1950"Gaayatri Kaundinya 
6."Dico Becomes Pelé"Nikhita Gandhi 
7."The Gift"George Doering 
9."The Chase"Sivamani 
10."Thiago is Gone"Linda Lind 
11."Santos Dilemma"A. R. Rahman 
12."Locker Room"A. R. Rahman 
13."Hat trick"A. R. Rahman 
14."Return to Ginga"Sivamani 
15."No Looking Back"George Doering 
16."Conquering the Demons"A. R. Rahman 
17."Against All Odds"Nikhita Gandhi, Arpita Gandhi 
18."Blessings from the Sky"Jonita Gandhi 
19."The History of Ginga"A. R. Rahman 
20."Ginga"A. R. Rahman, Anna Beatriz, Aditya Rao 


For the 89th Academy Awards, A. R. Rahman has been shortlisted for nomination under Academy Award for Best Original Score among 145 candidates[23] and the song "Ginga" produced by A. R. Rahman and performed by A. R. Rahman, Anna Beatriz and Aditya Rao has found its place among 91 contenders under Academy Award for Best Original Song.[24] The nominations for the same will be announced on January 24, 2017 at Samuel Goldwyn Theater and the final awards ceremony on February 26, 2017.[25][26][27][28]


  1. ^ "Pelé: Birth of a Legend". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 2, 2016.
  2. ^ "Production Begins on Brazilian Soccer Biopic Pelé". 2 October 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
  3. ^ "Hollywood treatment for Pele". 4 October 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
  4. ^ Roxborough, Scott (9 February 2014). "'Pele' Biopic Won't Be Ready in Time for World Cup". Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  5. ^ "IFC Picks Up Soccer Biopic 'Pele: Birth of a Legend' for U.S." Variety. Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  6. ^ a b "First Look: 'Pele' Biopic Shoots in Brazil (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  7. ^ Pulasta Dhar (May 13, 2016). "'Pele' The Movie Is Not Just About The Great Footballer, It's About Brazil's Lost Soul". Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  8. ^ "Pelé: Birth of a Legend (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
  9. ^ "Pelé: Birth of a Legend Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  10. ^ Terry, Josh (May 20, 2016). "Pelé biopic 'Birth of a Legend' takes soccer fans back to the 1958 World Cup". Deseret News. Deseret News Publishing Company. Retrieved May 20, 2016.
  11. ^ Means, Sean P. (May 20, 2016). "Movie review: Biopic 'Pelé' kicks through the usual sports clichés". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved May 20, 2016.
  12. ^ Zilberman, Alan (May 19, 2016). "'Pelé: Birth of a Legend' fails to score". The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
  13. ^ Abele, Robert (May 12, 2016). "'Pelé: Birth of a Legend' Review: Brazilian Soccer Giant's Biopic Scores Zero Goals". TheWrap. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
  14. ^ Nordine, Michael (May 11, 2016). "The New Pelé Movie Has Great Footwork but Iffy, Cheesy Drama". The Village Voice. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
  15. ^ Rechtshaffen, Michael (May 12, 2016). "Young 'Pelé' biopic fails to capture spark of soccer icon". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
  16. ^ Barker, Andrew (April 29, 2016). "Film Review: 'Pelé: Birth of a Legend'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
  17. ^ a b "AR Rahman had to Google who Pele was, but it's OK, he knows now". 2016-05-11. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  18. ^ "A R Rahman to work with Brazilian singer Anna Beatriz on Pele's biopic". Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  19. ^ a b "Not everybody can play like Pelé or Sachin: AR Rahman on 'scoring' for sporting greats - Firstpost". Firstpost. 2016-05-10. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  20. ^ "The Next Phase Of AR Rahman's Career Is Going To Be About More Than Music". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  21. ^ "Playing with Carlos Santana was epic: AR Rahman". 2016-05-13. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  22. ^ "Rahman scores a winner with 'Ginga' |". Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  23. ^ "145 Original Scores in 2016 Oscar race". Oscars. 13 December 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  24. ^ "91 ORIGINAL SONGS VIE FOR 2016 OSCAR". Oscars. 13 December 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  25. ^ "A.R. Rahman in Oscar nomination race again with 'Pele'". The Hindu. Los Angeles. 14 December 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  26. ^ "Indian music maestro A.R. Rahman again in Oscar race". The Times of India. IANS. 14 December 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  27. ^ "A R Rahman in Oscar race for Pele biopic". Bangalore Mirror. India Times. IANS. 15 December 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  28. ^ "AR Rahman in Oscar race again, Pele brings him recognition". Indian Express. IANS. 14 December 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2016.

External linksEdit