Higuita: The Way of The Scorpion (Higuita: El Camino del Escorpion) is a Spanish sports documentary exclusively available on Netflix. Directed by Luis Ara, the documentary focuses on the rise of Colombian René Higuita, a legendary Colombian goalkeeper known for his eccentric playing style in the 80s and 90s. From his humble origins, revolutionary career, and unique style of play to his friendship with Pablo Escobar, a football legend is explored in depth.
The structure and the plot devices of this documentary are atypical of similar sports documentaries, such as Pelé. The narrative is dynamic, especially at the beginning of the film. Instead, many of the plot threads that will later be explored in detail are all teased within the first part of the movie, skipping across decades and raising suspicion. It raises the level of the legend and serves as a table of contents.
The other obscure aspect of the documentary is where the footage comes from. The film is split between televised games and interviews in the modern day, the usual format for this genre. But for extended periods of time where there were no cameras capturing the moments, reenactments are used instead. Some of the most important moments of Higuita’s story are recreated with actors, important to help paint the scenario and give visual stimuli for the emotive words.
The man’s life is an incredible story, and how it is told is magnificent. The fractured timeline from the beginning evens out, but it still isn’t fully linear, but Higuita does group parts of his life together. All of the pieces are placed together to really the final tale, which might be one of the most extraordinary sagas to involve a footballer. The documentary doesn’t cover all of Higuita’s life, but it is focused on the most pivotal moments of his career and even personal controversies. That is why it is easier for the segments to be treated like chapters, as they are individual stories within a man’s memories.
The tone of the documentary alternates, bouncing between solemn and celebration. That sums up the man quite well, who is one of the most remarkable figures among a sport full of them. The man is an utter legend, and revered within Colombia, and so it can be difficult to demonstrate how he must feel and what it’s like being in his shoes. There may be two other footballers on the planet that have that same reverence, and neither is still alive. What’s brilliant about Higuita is how he accepts and smiles at his legacy.
Where other players could be humble or downplay it, the sense of adoration that Higuita faced is crucial to the storytelling. He’s a family man, and the film takes great effort to present him as a kind and considerate person. The sheer madness of his playing style is just the tip of the iceberg, but it is one hell of a tactic to draw in the audience. Known for one very specific save, the broader display of his ability and his personality is remarkable and completely unexpected. Even for seasoned football fans, what happens when the ball goes towards him is always a surprise. But beyond the sport, there is an even more engaging storyline of corruption, crime and celebrity, expertly crafted within the confines of the last segment of the movie.
It isn’t just Higuita’s perspective that is shown, but the closest people in his life. Famous teammates and his family are all interviewed. From those he played with, there is a eulogy of his skills and his playing ability, representing Colombia during their most glamorous era. Then, from his family members is a more intimate display of what he’s like as a person. What would be beneficial to the authenticity of the documentary is some dissenting opinions. Virtually every person who takes part in the movie is a friend or would speak favorably of the man, so it is difficult to ascertain if all of the stories where he is painted as the hero are the complete truth.
The editing and the production of Higuita: The Way of the Scorpion is superb. The match footage has been upgraded as much as it can, but the aspect ratio and the pixelation actually increase the charm of the moment. Higuita is instantly recognizable, with such an iconic hairstyle standing between the goalposts. That hairstyle becomes something of a motif and a symbol as the movie progresses. Colombia looks stunning in both the past and the present. The reenactments are very well made. They aren’t over-stylised and fit the look of the rest of the film.
Higuita: The Way of the Scorpion brings Colombia’s cult hero back to the limelight. This isn’t an autobiography of his life. It’s a greatest hit of one of that country’s greats. In a renaissance period of football documentaries, you need the biggest characters to create something different. And what a character Higuita is. A terrific footballer who transcended a single position. You can only watch his highlights with incredulity. His lasting legacy in the game should be recognised and appreciated, but also the ordeal that he went through due to who he was and the company he kept.
Higuita: The Way of The Scorpion is available on Netflix.
Higuita: The Way of The Scorpion
Higuita: The Way of the Scorpion brings Colombia’s cult hero back to the limelight. This isn’t an autobiography of his life.