Review: ‘Inshallah, Football’

Three story strands compete for attention in the sincere but unpolished human-rights docu "Inshallah, Football," from Indian helmer Ashvin Kumar.

Three story strands compete for attention in the sincere but unpolished human-rights docu “Inshallah, Football,” from Indian helmer Ashvin Kumar. Filmed in 2009 in Srinigar, in Indian-controlled Kashmir, pic centers on Basharat Baba, a talented teen soccer player who was invited to train with a Brazilian club but struggled to acquire the passport denied him because his father was a Pakistan-trained militant. But Kumar also devotes considerable time to Basharat’s father, Bashir, and to the sports academy where the boy trains. Controversial in India for its perceived criticism of the government, “Football” is kicking around the fest circuit.

Helmer Kumar, best known for his Oscar-nominated 2004 live-action short, “The Little Terrorist,” uses plenty of text to outline how the Muslim-majority state Kashmir wound up divided between Indian and Pakistani sectors of control. As the autonomy of Indian-occupied Kashmir eroded over the years, many Kashmiris, like Bashir Baba, rebelled against the occupying force.

Now considered a rehabilitated Hizbul Mujahideen, Bashir discusses his time in detention and — more objectionable to Indian censors — his torture in the notorious interrogation center known as Papa 2. Bashir came of age at a time when young men had little other outlet for their energies, but for his son’s generation, there is soccer.

The backstory of the Intl. Sports Academy Trust in Kashmir provides the most audience-friendly part of the docu, with characters worthy of their own film. Founded by FIFA-accredited Argentine coach Juan Marcos Troia and his charismatic Brazilian wife, Priscilla Barros Pedroso, ISAT trains local youths to play soccer and also teaches them moral values.

Tech credits are basic, with Kumar and co-producer Giulia Achilli occasionally appearing oncamera.

Inshallah, Football



An Alipur Film production with the support of the Asian Cinema Fund. (International sales: Smiley Film Sales, Auckland.) Produced by Giulia Achilli, Ashvin Kumar. Co-producer, Jaaved Jaffrey. Directed, written by Ashvin Kumar.


Camera (color, DV), Kumar; editors, Kumar, Aman Shukla, Ewa J. Lind; music, Shahzad Ismaily, Qasim Haqvi, Jil Christensen; sound, Roland Heap. Reviewed at Chicago Film Festival (Docufest), Oct. 13, 2011. Running time: 80 MIN.


Basharat Baba, Bashir Baba, Juan Marcos Troia, Priscilla Barros Pedroso. (Hindi, English dialogue)

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