Empowering, wacky, and ultimately uplifting, Next Goal Wins gives audiences an eye-opening view into both Pacific Islander culture and how transgender/nonbinary people fit into it.
Directed by Academy Award Winner Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit, Thor: Ragnarok) and based on an inspirational true story, Next Goal Wins follows the American Samoa Soccer team, infamous for their brutal 31-0 FIFA loss in 2001. With the World Cup Qualifiers approaching, the U.S. Soccer Federation hires Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender), a renowned former Dutch player and coach, to change their fortune. Will he be able to lead these underestimated players to victory, or at least help them secure a goal?
Rongen initially has a difficult time acclimating to the friendly and accepting culture of the natives, but he eventually forges a heartfelt connection with the team, particularly team member Jaiyah Saelua, who identifies as fa’afafine – a third gender in Samoan culture. They are portrayed by rising star Kaimana, who also identifies as fa’afafine.
Next Goal Wins also features performances by Oscar Kightley, David Fane, Rachel House, Beulah Koale, Will Arnett, and Elisabeth Moss.
Instinct had the opportunity to sit down with Waititi to talk more about this underdog story and why it spoke to him, as well as Saeula, who discussed seeing not just their story, but American Samoan culture represented on the big screen.
Check out the full video interview below.
Taika Waititi & Jaiyah Saelua…
Follow Waititi: Instagram
Next Goal Wins is now playing in theaters.