The film opens with a football match. The players are all girls, being coached by two women. It’s a make-shift football ground — there’s no grass. There aren’t many spectators either — one man in a skull cap and henna-dyed beard, and a few burqa-clad women. Yet, the girls are focused on their game. They are shouting at each other to pass the ball, and are seen celebrating wholeheartedly on scoring a goal. “Whoever wins the game, girls are winning in general,” says a young player directly in to the camera.
Her words summarise the premise of Under the Open Sky, a documentary that traces the formation of an all-girls football team in a suburb of Mumbai, Mumbra — an area referred to in the film as a Muslim ghetto. It follows the girls’ journey to compete at the Fatima Bi — Savitribai Football Tournament, organised by Parcham, a non-profit organisation that works towards gender equality. The film showcases how the girls reclaim the public ground, and challenges the notion that football is an all-boys’ game.
Watch the trailer of Under the Open Sky here
“There’s a certain joy the girls feel when they are able to play a sport in a public space. That’s what we wanted to capture,” says Shilpa Phadke, who has co-directed the documentary with two colleagues from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Chembur. Phadke is also the author of Why Loiter? (2013), a book that sheds light on how women navigate Mumbai’s public spaces.
This weekend, at a talk, following a screening of Under the Open Sky, Phakde will elaborate on the transformative power of sports and its contribution to women’s empowerment. “The girls told us how strong they felt, both physically and emotionally. It gave them a sense of freedom. It’s important to highlight these stories of women who have made a difference on a micro level,” she says.
BE THERE: Fields Of Dreams - Football Girl Power in India will take place on March 3, 5pm onward
Where: The Godrej India Culture Lab, Godrej ONE, Vikhroli (E)