Last night, the RSN office became a cinema! Of sorts, anyway. A group of our mentors came to eat and chat and watch the documentary The Boxing Girls of Kabul. Rachael, our Mentoring Programmes Assistant, reviews the film below.
A Canadian documentary about the boxing careers of three young Afghan women, sisters Sadaf and Shabnam Rahimi and Shahla Sikandary, The Boxing Girls of Kabul, had me right from the start. The opening scene, familiar to so many of us, showed two women in pale blue burkhas forced to their knees in a screaming stadium by men with guns, and was compelling to say the least. Although this news footage of imminent executions was actually at odds with the rest of the film, it provided a stark reminder of the context in which these lovely and brave teenagers pursued their passion for sport.
The opening scene quickly shot to blue sky, stunning cello music and today’s Kabul in which young women were chatting about exam results, laughing with one another and training in the very stadium that, not so long ago, saw those brutal executions. The film followed the girls as they pursued their passion for boxing, highlighting the views of those around them and the obstacles they faced.
These girls were very normal and very brave, but as Catherine – RSN’s director – pointed out to our mentors last night, another real hero was their coach. Sharifi, a former Afghan boxer who missed out on his Olympic dream because of the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, clearly had a deep and defiant affection for the girls. Although he experienced threats because of his choice to coach the girls and take them to competitions across Asia, he remained warm, courageous and inspiring.
The Boxing Girls of Kabul is a beautiful and dignified film. It comes thoroughly recommended from all of us at RSN, not least because of the inspiration it provides to those of us in the privileged position of coaching and mentoring young people from some of the world’s most volatile and disempowering contexts.
The Boxing Girls of Kabul was written and directed by the Afghan-Canadian filmmaker Ariel J. Nasr. Based in Afghanistan, Nasr produced the recently Oscar-nominated live action short, Buzkashi Boys (2012).