Film Reviews

‘They Call Us Warriors’: The Soccer Stars of Venezuela

Upbeat portrait of the women’s football team


They Call Us Warriors (Nos chamam guerreiras)
(Venezuela, 83 min.)
Dir. Edwin Corona Ramos, David Alonso, Jennifer Socorro

Post-script title cards sometimes cheapen the story that precedes then. They can be mawkish, on the nose, or simply redundant calls to action that underestimate the audience’s intelligence. The Call Us Warriors, however, features a quick little figure before the credits role. The card simply states that enrollment in girls’ soccer rose 97% in Venezuela after the women’s under-17 national team kicked ass in the 2016 South American Under-17 Women’s Football Championship and 2016 World Cup. This statistic adds a layer of gravity to the crowd-pleasing film.

The tale in They Call Us Warriors is inspiring to begin with, but the figure simply underscores the impact of seeing young women compete and succeed on a global stage. Just look at the completely barren stadiums when the team makes it to some of the top matches. There are few people to be seen cheering on these young women. The ocean of empty seats is depressing, but the film invites audiences to consider all the girls watching the game on television and imagining themselves careening down the fields in their footsteps.

This rousing documentary focuses on five key players on the Venezuelan women’s soccer team during their outstanding 2016 season. Directors Edwin Corona Ramos, Jennifer Socorro, and David Alonso (who died during before the film’s completion while working on another project) take audiences inside the homes of these young women to provide insight into their fight to succeed. They Call Us Warriors offers five underdog tales wrapped into one as the film follows the young women from different backgrounds as they train hard and commit themselves even harder to be the best that they can be while defying the odds in a society that still sees women’s sports as secondary to boys playing with their balls.

The star of the film is Deyna Castellanos, the spunky and headline-grabbing Vinotinto striker who was a top scorer and helped lead the team to victory in the South American Under-17 Women’s Football Championship. The cameras love her and she knows how to work their spotlight. She’s a team player even when she scores goals that make highlight reels around the world—and one of her coups during the World Cup is a jaw-dropping doozy. She’s a model for dedication, determination, hard work, and tenacity.

The film sees Deyna forced to come into her own when her greatest asset on the field, Daniuska Rodríguez, falls out of commission due to a hairline fracture. Dani’s story is often heartbreaking to watch when one sees how hard she trains only to be forced to cheer on her team from the sidelines—enthusiastically so—at the peak of their potential. Others have it even harder as Yerliane Moreno must leave her home in the midst of a flood to play in the championship. Sandra Luzardo, meanwhile, recalls playing for the boys’ team while growing up because girls’ teams didn’t exist, offering a perspective that should resonate with young women wherever the film screens. The players don’t forget their roots and their stories echo throughout They Call Us Warriors as they speak proudly and fondly of families, communities, and sisters who support the pursuit of their dreams.

It’s sometimes hard to connect with the players, though, as They Call Us Warriors breezes throughout their stories with rapid-fire montages. Few shots in the film are more than two or three seconds long and while this style of hyper-kinetic energy works thrillingly in the soccer sequences, it sometimes keeps the girls at a remove when they open their worlds to the viewers. Fleeting B-roll and cutaways dominate the film: vague images of training, unrecognizable soccer players in long shots, and lots of running feet overwhelm the players as they tell their stories. This slickly shot and kinetically edited aesthetic evokes the peppy allure of branded content, but the directors keep the tale objectively on the documentary side of the scale.

It might be nice to see them enjoy more face time while getting their moment and sharing their perspectives in the interviews, but the film also consistently emphasizes the power of a united front. Although They Call Us Warriors focuses on five players, it’s not about the individuals. It’s about the team. The film is sure to have aspiring players feeling pumped-up, energized, and invigorated.

Update: They Call Us Warriors premiers on iTunes Canada on April 21, 2020.