Review: ‘Zanzibar Soccer Queens’

The positive power of the world's most popular sport shines through in "Zanzibar Soccer Queens," an illuminating group portrait of African women determined to play the game in a predominantly Muslim society.

The positive power of the world’s most popular sport shines through in “Zanzibar Soccer Queens,” an illuminating group portrait of African women determined to play the game in a predominantly Muslim society. Docu by Cameroon-born, Wales-based helmer Florence Ayisi (“Sisters in Law”) scores a goal for girl power by eliciting deeply personal testimony from its participants. Well-traveled fest item has a future with niche broadcasters and potential in educational markets.

Team in the spotlight is the aptly named “Women Fighters.” Established in 1988 against the wishes of some religious leaders — “they ought to wear dresses” — club has prospered to the point where it’s become a major draw and is able to play against (and frequently defeat) male opposition. Inspirational heart of docu is coach Nassra Juma Mohammed, whose role extends to social worker for her players, many of whom are recovering from abandonment by partners and other forms of social rejection. Cutting simply and effectively from candid interviews to the joy of playing, pic emerges as an upbeat record of women discovering self-confidence and unity. No-frills tech package gets the job done fine.

Zanzibar Soccer Queens

U.K.

Production

An Iris Films production. (International sales: Iris, Cardiff, U.K.) Produced, directed by Florence Ayisi.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Gavin Northover; editor, Catalin Brylla; music, East Africa Melody. Reviewed at Hawaii Film Festival (Best of the West), Oct. 19, 2007. Swahili, English dialogue. Running time: 87 MIN.

With

Nassra Juma Mohammed, Amina Abdallah, Ferous Ali Amir, Marissa Yusuf Hamid, Warda Khalid, Lightness Vincent.
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