Strongly voiced social concerns underlie a tale of a Quito teenager drifting out of school and into bad company in “Offsides,” a rare feature film from Ecuador. Debuting director Victor Arregui takes on a heavy mantle of responsibility for showing the country’s unstable political situation and sorry economic conditions. But the young protags are vividly rendered, and the way they lose their hopes and dreams creates a dramatic counterpoint to the political backdrop. This is dignified fest material, with Latin outlets another possibility.
Juan (Manolo Santillan) starts the film unnaturally innocent. His trajectory is steadily downward, which the script over-motivates through a mixture of impoverished home life, lack of parental affection, an unreturned crush on a girl, government corruption, police repression and druggie pals. Crime finally seems like a good way to make money and emigrate to Spain. Yet film is often intriguing thanks to Arregui’s talent for getting close to his characters, aided by incisive perfs by non-pros Santillan and Ximena Ganchala as his beautiful, doomed friend who tries to climb the social ladder with her looks. Blown up from mini-DV, film has a rough-edged look.