The film, which won the Audience Award, was included in the LongShots selection of the channel’s online festival, along with six other international productions.
Directed by Guillermo Madeiro and Federico Borgia, and produced by Montelona, with the support of the Dirección Nacional de Cine y Audiovisual del Uruguay and the Intendencia de Montevideo, the Uruguayan film El campeón del mundo was part, together with other six international films, of the LongShots Selection of the first BBC online festival, made in this format due to the pandemic.
Due to the power of its narrative, the Uruguayan documentary was chosen among 70 productions by a committee of 18 professionals, acclaimed curators and Academy Award winners. Among them is Brazilian director Petra Costa, who recently was nominated for an Oscar for her film On the Edge of Democracy. Costa recommended the documentary for the way it reveals aspects of masculinity through the father-son bond.
The award-winning documentary was produced in Uruguay, a market that currently holds an undisputed place in the international film scene and has won more than 200 international awards in the last ten years.
Uruguay is one of the countries in Latin America with one of the best ratios between the number of national premieres and GDP. The recognized professional level of Uruguayan technicians and the important film infrastructure of the Uruguayan audiovisual industry are true competitive advantages and make the experience of filming in the safest and most transparent country in Latin America unparalleled.
The portrait of a bond
Directors Madeiro and Borgia met Antonio Osta, the main character of the documentary, while making Clever, a fiction film released in 2016. Osta, who had been the 2006 amateur bodybuilding world champion in Russia and the 2008 professional WFF-WBBF champion in Lithuania, represented a muscular artist who lived with his mother in the interior of Uruguay. According to Madeiro, meeting him was a “revelation”.
“We did a casting that was shocking. Not only did he have the look we wanted for the character, but he was extremely sensitive and also played the piano. Thanks to him, the character grew a lot from what was in the script. At that moment we already realized that the real character surpassed the fictional one,” Madeiro illustrated.
After filming Clever, the directors decided to venture into the documentary genre and the idea of making a portrait of Osta came up. They went to his house in the city of Cardona, Soriano, and he liked the proposal. They began to film his daily life with his son and soon the film became a portrait of the relationship between father and son. “After six months of filming we realized that the heart was there and we kept filming that bond,” the director said.
The world champion also tackles bodybuilding, an unusual sport that has muscle hypertrophy as its cult. The documentary shows Osta’s detailed knowledge of the human anatomy and the drugs linked to the sport, a knowledge he had acquired in a self-taught way. According to Madeiro, both directors felt like “toads from another well”, but they found it exciting to listen to Osta.
In 2017, while shooting the film, Osta died in Mexico due to kidney failure. Inevitably death became one of the themes of the film. “Antonio talked about his possible death. I don’t know if it was something unconscious, but we didn’t take it very seriously until it actually happened. The film is, in part, a farewell to Antonio”, concluded Madeiro.
In Uruguay, The World Champion had its preview at the Uruguayan market DocMontevideo and was recognized as Best Documentary Feature at the Detour Festival’s Focus on Directors. It premiered in theatres at the end of 2019 and was recognized by audiences and critics with the award for Best Documentary of the year by the Uruguayan Association of Critics and the Morosoli Award for Moving Image.
“We didn’t expect the repercussions it had but we were super satisfied with the work. We knew we had made a good film, one of those we like to see. It was a documentary made in a very austere way, we never imagined being on the BBC. It was a surprise,” said the director.
The world champion can be seen online at LongShots.