The Workers Cup

PBS Premiere: July 9, 2018Check the broadcast schedule »

Filmmaker Statement

When Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup, a spotlight was shined on this very secretive country. Journalists from around the world attempted to access labor camps and construction sites, but they were stopped and in some cases even arrested. Because our filmmaking team lived in Qatar, we had the relationships and knowledge needed to negotiate access to the camps.

Our team has worked together in Qatar for many years producing films for outlets that include CNN, BBC, and HBO. Some of these films focused on migrant workers building World Cup facilities, but they only told a small portion of the story, and the workers themselves were often portrayed as victims. Many times we were obligated to hide the identities of our contributors or to shoot undercover. These stories still offered important insight, but they lacked the intimacy that I believe leads to deep understanding.

In order to make a film of which workers could be proud, I aimed to capture the complexity of their experiences and push beyond the common narrative that migrant workers are casualties of circumstance. My hope is that our film will create empathy rather than sympathy for them.

At its heart, The Workers Cup is a sports film and it employs the narrative conventions of the genre that have proven so effective over time. In particular, I've been inspired by documentaries about amateur competitions that serve as powerful illustrations of our social structures and the human spirit.

Soccer provided the perfect access point for this emotional and relatable story. Featuring protagonists from India, Kenya, Ghana and Nepal who are living together in Qatar, The Workers Cup is a portrait of our increasingly globalized world. Yet sport, in all of its agony and ecstasy, is universal. The World Cup is being built on the backs of our protagonists--still, they can't help but love the game.

This paradox holds the film in balance for me, and I believe it reveals a greater truth about how we find meaning in life.

-- Adam Sobel