Dreaming and working towards a better future

“Follow your dreams” is something we all heard many times before. A simple catchphrase, yet a very general and basic life advice. To a certain extent, it is true. What we dream of is doing something that makes us happy and content. But in many cases, our dream is so general or so far away from our current life that it becomes a condition for happiness. “If I only can do X, I’ll be happy”

Which results in people only dreaming and not taking actual steps to get closer to their goal. Lofty goals are hard to reach because they are either far away; or taking a first step is difficult because you don’t know where to begin. Not taking the element of luck into account or more importantly: working hard to get closer to the desired goal. In this context, you are the underdog. No one expects you to succeed, let alone make any decent progress towards your dream. But it is not impossible. Let me tell you about a group of people that made history. Let’s talk about the Korean film Dream.

Underdog stories

Dream is an underdog story. While we might associate an underdog story with sports films like Cool Runnings and Rocky; there are other well-known films like Die Hard and Shawshank Redemption which have underdog protagonists. Underdog stories are not limited to sports; yet sports provide an easy framework for an underdog story. This is, in my opinion, part of the reason why people love them. As a viewer, I want to root for the underdog. They have to beat the antagonist against all odds in a specific situation bound by a specific ruleset.

In the case of Dream we follow the South-Korean Homeless football team on their way to their first Homeless World Cup. Dream is a recreation of the real-life events of 2010. The film states that the team’s participation had a great influence on the status of homeless people in South-Korea. Because this is an adaptation of the original story, it’s even more important to talk about the dreams that are related to these underdog stories. 

In general terms: If the protagonist doesn’t have a dream or wish that the viewer can relate to, it’s hard to be captivated by the story. Dream’s protagonists have goals but ‌not all are as relatable. The most endearing of the bunch is the player (Hyo-Bong) who wants to show that he can take care of himself so his ex-wife allows him to spend time with his daughter. And the spare moments we see him spent with his daughter are cute and well portrayed. It certainly is a lot more relatable than the football star (Hong-Dae) who’s fallen from grace and wants to regain favor from the public. Especially since he is the one that the film opens on and closes with. While his arrogance slowly disappears when he warms to the team; the resolution to his story arc is in my opinion sub-par to the rest and does not contribute much to the story as a whole. As such, it leaves a strange aftertaste. I would’ve ended his arc in a different way1.


The second part of a great underdog story is opposition. Rocky needs to defeat Apollo Creed in order to reach his goal. Creed is an adversary so formidable that it is very unlikely that Rocky has a chance despite intensive training. This is also where the underdog story can shine. By showing glimmers of hope through the looming shadow of defeat. Can the protagonist achieve something which makes them proud?

In my opinion, Dream falls a little flat in completely setting the stage for the World Cup. Due to the limited runtime, the story is rushed in some places. Rushed because there are too many players of note on the board. There is the coach, the documentary maker, the team manager and all of the players. They all have backstories which are in different ways important, yet cannot fully be explored due to time constraints. What we see is heartwarming, but I’m not fully invested. I don’t feel like the stakes are high enough. Not until that one match against Germany. Luckily the comedy and drama working towards the World Cup are fun to watch; but I think in films like these a large cast like this one is detrimental to the depth of the characters and how well the story is handled.

Adaptation and tenacity

The last important part of underdog stories is the adaptability en tenacity of the underdog. More often than not underdogs have exotic backgrounds which gives them an edge. In the case of Dream, the players are very tenacious. Even when the opponents are better in football on every level, the South-Koreans do not quit. When they stumble or fall, they get back on their feet. This has become part of their nature due to the social status they hold in their home country. Even when the majority of society see them as a different kind of people they believe in themselves. A few people worked very hard to get them to the World Cup and the players all have things to fight for. It’s this tenacity that gives them an edge in the games; and it’s this tenacity which makes the game against Germany the most exciting part of the film.

Follow your dream

Having a dream is a good thing. Especially when your dream makes the lives of  other people better. The biggest hero of Dream is in my opinion the Big Issue manager, whom we rarely see on camera. He made sure the team could go to the World Cup and because of his (initial) actions, the social status of homeless people changed in South-Korea. Wouldn’t it be great if you could have such an impact? 

So whatever your dream is; work towards it. Break it down in smaller steps and bring it to life with the tenacity of an underdog. 


  1. My preferred ending (1rst draft): After the cut that the team received the award, cut to the waiting hall of the media team. Play out that scene as it currently is in the film and jump to the title screen: Dream!
    Next: Show the sweet goodbyes of the father and daughter, followed by the passing daughter and granddaughter who visit the old man in his new house. This can be done by having the girl pass by in the background to ease the viewer to the new scene.
    Then show the text on how the team’s achievement impacted the status of homeless people in the country.
    After this: Cut to Hong-Dae who walking into the football stadium for training. He is on the phone with the Big Issue manager. They are talking about him staying on as coach for the next Homeless World Cup. There is only one condition: he can only give shirts to Beom-Soo’s girlfriend through him. Hong-Dae says he’ll think about it. He ends the call and we quickly cut to Beom-Soo eating with his girlfriend. She shares her food and calls him football player.
    Cut back to Hong-Dae who smirks and enters the dressing room where people start to cheer for him.

Sources and further reading

Underdog films on IMBD.

Best underdog films according to screenrant

Underdogs explained on Wikipedia and TV Tropes

On the film Dream:

MyDramaList page

Article explaining the background of the film

Homeless World Cup:

South Korea Page;

2010 tournament page

corresponding news article

Poirot and the necessity of a backstory

I recently watched Death on the Nile, the 2 year delayed remake of Agatha Christie’s classic Poirot adventure. After the enjoyable remake of Murder on the Orient Express, I’m happy to see the a modern entry of this intriguing story and the return of Poirot to the big screen.

I like Poirot as a character. Cited to have solved more important cases than the viewer will ever see; he solves his cases by asking the right questions, being at the right place at the right time and connecting the dots by using reasoning and psychology. Poirot’s little grey cells are always registering something which involves the case, which makes him more dangerous than any regular policeman.

But those are the character’s qualities we only see when he is on the hunt. When he is simply relaxing or between interrogations the man is very preoccupied with his moustache and looks. And behaves a little funny according to people he meets. Which makes him a charming and intriguing character.

Different eras, different Poirot

Every actor who played Poirot has put their own spin on the sleuth. Be it Albert Finney, David Suchet or Peter Ustinov. The latest iteration with Kenneth Branagh is a more dramatic figure. One who would not be misplaced in a theatre. For me, this seems to be even more the case in Death on the Nile. Poirot is put at the centre of the film as a character with a dramatic background. One created so the viewer can relate more to the man. While it is an interesting take and it certainly adds some emotional depth to the character, I found that it doesn’t add anything to the story. It unnecessarily inflates the runtime and distracts from the people who should be the flavour of the story: the suspects.

I like it when a film doesn’t add unnecessary fluff. Especially in detectives. For me, the detective is just the character that the audience follows to understand the case. We do not need to know anything about this character unless there is a personal stake. The 1978 version of Death on the Nile is an excellent example of that. We learn personal bits about the sleuth in his conversations with others, but we never dive deep into his psyche or his emotional state. That isn’t the purpose of the story. The audience is there to watch the situation culminate into murder and work with the detective to solve the case. The suspects are the flavour of the story, especially in a serialised universe1.

Interesting characters

Let’s jump to a recent classic for comparison: Knives Out. It is a well written film which ticks my boxes for a murder mystery. While it may not follow the traditional murder mystery story structure, it certainly gives us A: an interesting sleuth and B: an interesting cast of characters. Which are both important to keep the audience engaged. The difference with 2022’s Death on the Nile is that at the end of Knives Out we still know very little about detective Blanc. Which isn’t neccesary because the Thrombeys and Marta are the ones keeping us engaged with the story. Which is something that I’m not really confident to say about Death on the Nile. If we were to cut all the dramatic fluff surrounding Poirot on screen and have Branagh act with that information it will at the very least be a more streamlined film. Because the fluff draws the attention away from the the ones who should be on the forefront. It would give the characters more space to interact, giving the audience a chance to learn and remember their backgrounds.  

Besides that, it still is exciting to have new Poirot content. I hope that there will be a new film which is more tightly written and focuses less on Poirot and more on the mystery. That’s why I’m in the theatre. And I’m sure those simple changes will make solving the case a more satisfying experience.

  1. Considering there are 2 Branagh films alongside all the other Poirot content.

How awards bring attention to animation

With the award season behind us one thing has become quite clear: Soul is the big winner when it comes to the animated feature category. Especially for the general public, because Soul won the Academy Award, the Bafta and the Golden Globe award. When the award ceremonies are mentioned on the news in The Netherlands, the aforementioned three are usually the ceremonies covered. But the animated feature award is not the highest profile award that’s handed out. At least, not for the general public. So it is not very likely that the they will hear about the winner of the animated feature award. Because often animated features can be as fun to watch as any of the live action films nominated.

Why this is a problem

I’m not sure how the general film community looks at animated features, but I know that many people, at least in my immediate social circle, still think that animation is for children. And it is very true that most animated features are targeted towards younger people. But that doesn’t mean it’s not for adults.

Think about Shrek; that film was as funny for adults as it was for children because of the references only adults would understand. And despite the fact that many films speak to adults on a certain level, I think that like Shrek, Soul is a film that very easily transcends its expected target demographic. Which makes it a natural candidate to take away all the awards. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best film of the nominees and thus claim the award. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Soul and it deserves all the accolades it received. But wouldn’t it be great if another film won the award against all odds? I think that it would cause a buzz but the question is if that’s the best for animation as a medium.

Good film or an outlier

We are very blessed to live in the age of streaming. With excellent internet connections and streaming platforms like Disney+, Netflix and Crunchyroll the access to animation has never been as low as in recent times. While Disney is known for its outstanding animated library Netflix is competing with a growing library of diverse animated shows and films. And while platforms like Crunchyroll have been a staple for the anime loving community, it is great for a person new to the medium of animation to have multiple points of entry. But no matter the library, it takes a film that speaks to you as a viewer to grow interest in this medium and learn to appreciate its many facets. Soul is one of those outliers because contrary to the other nominees in this year’s award season I think it speaks more to adults with its thematic, setting and music. Not to say it cannot be enjoyed by children or that they won’t understand its message, but tonally it is constructed to speak to those of us with a bit more life experience. At least, in my humble opinion.

Attention and invitation

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if Soul; The Croods:  A new Age; Over the Moon; OnwardA Shaun the Sheep movie: Farmageddon or Wolfwalkers was your favorite film of the last year. To me, this list of films is a celebration of the medium. An invitation to the diversity of styles that animation has to offer. The downside to this list is that there aren’t more different films on it. There were a ton of fun releases last year and I would’ve liked something like Jiang Ziya or a “true anime” on it. But while this is not the case it is no excuse not to watch animation with your friends and relatives to celebrate this great medium and at the same time give it some needed attention. Because animation is a fantastical world of wonders which live action will never be able to put on display.