ZURA TAEKWONDO FIGHTER +
ZANZIBAR SOCCER DREAMS
TUESDAY 25TH OCTOBER 6:30PM
38-39 St Andrew's Street
Cambridge CB2 3AR
Following the living dreams of Zura Mushambokazi, this short documentary introduces us to a young female taekwondo fighter who sees the martial art as a means to an alternative future. Already hailed as the finest talent in the region, Zura must skilfully contend with society’s taboos and her parents’ fear for her life whilst coming to terms with what a professional sporting career entails. A revealing short film offering a positive insight into Rwandan society.
A sequel to the successful documentary Zanzibar Soccer Queens (2007), this film fast forwards to the lives of some of the women who embraced football both as an expression of self, but equally as a vision for society. We see likeable, funny and intelligent women describe how they were once labelled "hooligans" but are now ambassadors representing their country on state and international visits. In this energetic film, we see how sport is helping to challenge the taboos of gender, religion and culture.
Zanzibar Soccer Dreams
Directors: Florence Ayisi & Catalin Brylla
Running time: 63 mins
Language: English/Swahili with English subtitles
Zura Taekwondo Fighter
Director: Jean Baptiste Nyabyenda
Running time: 11 mins
Language: Swahili with English subtitles
Q+A with Director, Florence Ayisi, Soccer Coach featured in the film, Nassra Mohammed and, Jenny Thornton (CAFF Manager).
review by eva namusoke
Zanzibar Soccer Dreams (2016) and Zura Taekwondo Fighter (2016) are two documentary films that show East African women breaking boundaries in the field of sport. Zura Taekwondo Fighter, a short film directed by Jean Baptiste Nyabyenda focuses on Zura Mushambokazi, a young Rwandan woman pursing her dreams of being a successful Taekwondo fighter. Zura’s participation in the sport was initially challenged by her parents and wider Rwandan society where gender norms meant girls should avoid such ‘manly’ activities. As Zura and her mother are interviewed, the two women discuss the challenges Zura has faced and overcome and what her hopes are for the future. Acting as a voiceover for scenes depicting Zura’s impressive Taekwondo skills, her mother reflects on the importance of parents allowing children to follow their dreams, noting: ‘Listen and support her or his passions and talents.’
Zanzibar Soccer Dreams, directed by Florence Ayisi, is the follow-up to the 2007 documentary Zanzibar Soccer Queens that told the story of the first women’s football team in Zanzibar, the Women Fighters. Using interviews with the players themselves, parents, teachers, religious leaders and other members of their communities, Zanzibar Soccer Dreams tackles issues of gender, religion, identity and development. The film begins with a look back at the impact of the 2007 documentary, a film that had a lasting effect on not just the players on the Women Fighters football team, but on their wider communities and Zanzibar itself. It is clear from these first moments that a central concern for all of those involved remains the same as it was in 2007 – should women and girls play football?
After the events of Zanzibar Soccer Queens – and indeed because of the international reception of the film – women’s football had something of a moment in Zanzibar. As Zanzibar Soccer Dreams shows, the Women Fighters were invited to Germany, women’s teams popped up in Zanzibar, the government instituted football for girls in schools, and a new generation of Zanzibari girls navigated their religious and cultural obligations with their desire to play sports. In the predominantly Muslim Zanzibar, the roles and obligations of men and women are clearly defined. However, just as in other countries, what is expected of women in particular has changed over time. In the case of Zanzibar Soccer Dreams, the eight-year period since Zanzibar Soccer Queens has seen a perceptible shift in attitudes towards girls and sport. While it was initially seen as a sport for ‘hooligans’ and unacceptable for girls to play, since the success of Women Fighters FC, there appears to be more acceptance of this activity.
The women football players in the film talk candidly about their experiences playing football in the past, with the older women in particular recounting the difficulties they faced in previous years. As the women discuss their lives since the 2007 film, their hopes and ambitions, it is clear this is a group of women who are fantastically good company. This personal perspective, the humour and warmth with which the women and girls of Zanzibar Soccer Dreams tell their stories, is what makes a documentary that could so easily have been a well-worn parable about the culture clash between western culture and African Islam so fresh and enriching. Whether it’s the school girls talking about how much they enjoy playing football in school, or the formidable Mama Nassra detailing her decades-long work as a champion for football, the feeling of intimacy and comradery remains throughout. Essentially, Zanzibar Soccer Dreams is a story about women and girls wanting to excel in sport. The story may be a Zanzibari one, but at a time when even the most well-known female athletes in the world face sexist challenges, we can certainly all benefit from an inspiring story about young women challenging conceptions and breaking the mould.