Not Your Topo
En El Palo
Football is a sport mired in corruption. With powerful money men pulling the strings, and Sepp Blatter’s 2015 incident one cog in a well-oiled machine of deception, FIFA and football is big business but with that big business, comes big crime.
Amazon Prime’s El Presidente is part-satire, part-fictional biographical drama following the trials and tribulations of 31 year old Chilean Football President Sergio Jadue. Split across 8 episodes, each clocking in at about an hour a piece, this drama works well to identify powerful players at the top that pull the strings and paints a spotlight exposing all the corruption and ugliness that goes with that.
To begin with, the series is quite difficult to follow with narration that feels ripped right from Narcos and a whole slew of players in this big chain thrown at you in quick succession. It’s worth persevering with this one though because after the first couple of episodes, El Presidente settles into its role nicely and delivers a much more satisfying bout of drama, rounding things out across 8 episodes to produce a compelling crime drama worth watching.
The story itself is very much a behind-the-scenes affair so expect a lot more character-driven drama that plays out as a satirical version of a big operation known as “FIFA-gate”. Fifa-gate was one of the biggest scandals in the world of football, one that saw Sepp Blatter taken down in the process. The show clearly draws inspiration from that incident and its influence can be felt right the way through this series.
Instead of a like-for-like recreation though, El Presidente instead turns its attention to the sun-soaked South American Football Confederation (or CONMEBOL as it’s commonly known as there). Our protagonist is rookie President Sergio Jadue and after being accepted into the illustrious role of the executive committee, he ends up working as a snitch for the FBI and uncovers numerous dark secrets for them along the way. All seems well to begin with but the higher you climb – the bigger the drop to the bottom when it all comes tumbling down.
This forms the crux of the series but El Presidente has a surprising amount of humour injected into its story. It’s not an outright comedy and the tone leans a lot closer toward black humour as Jadue finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place, made even worse by his overbearing wife.
Narration helps paint a picture of what’s happening and a lot of the series has a light yellow hue hanging over the scenes that reinforces those ideas of deceit that run heavy right the way through the 8 episodes. It’s a subtle inclusion but one that’s a really smart inclusion nonetheless.
Overall then, El Presidente is a really well written and enjoyable crime drama. It’s a little convoluted at times and the early episodes make it difficult to work out exactly what’s going on. These opening few episodes see you juggling the names of numerous characters, events spilled through expository-heavy narration and. of course, the main narrative itself.
Stick with it though; El Presidente soon grows into something much more interesting and engaging toward the halfway point and from there, Amazon’s latest foreign offering does a really good job delivering a satirical look at football’s biggest scandal. It won’t be for everyone but if you can take to the tone, El Presidente is certainly worth a watch.