Hot Docs review: Khartoum Offside

Soccer-loving young women face down societal barriers with fierceness and humour in this apt-but-familiar film


KHARTOUM OFFSIDE (Marwa Zein, Sudan/Denmark/Norway/France). 75 minutes. Rating: NNN


Here’s an apt entry into Hot Docs’s Persister program. Soccer-loving young women face with fierceness and humour the barriers preventing them from playing. One woman is consistently gender-baited (“Are you a boy or a girl?”). In an especially effective sequence, another describes the challenge of playing in a hijab. But as the team, led by the compelling Sara, seeks status to join FIFA, the major problem is Sudan’s Muslim government, which rules against women playing soccer. I wish the film gave more context to this edict, which is part of a Public Order Act banning women from “immoral” behaviours, including drinking, smoking and playing football, while threatening a 40-year prison sentence as punishment. If it feels like you’ve seen a version of this story before, it’s only because there are female athletes all over the world – notably in Iran – seeking recognition and respect. 

Apr 26, 5:30 pm, Scotiabank 8 Apr 27, 10:45 am, TIFF 4 May 5, 8:15 pm, Aga Khan

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