The Boxing Girls of Kabul (2012)
"It was the first time I had seen a ring, and there I was climbing into it."
"The other boxers aren't sad, they have no sorrows. No one threatens them. They are very free."
The Boxing Girls of Kabul is an absorbing look at the lives and training of the Afghanistan's Womens' National Boxing Team. It focuses on two sisters, Shabnam and Sadaf Rahimi, as well as their close friend Shahla Sikandary as they train and prepare themselves for amateur boxing competition. Their head coach is a man named Sabir, a progressive minded man who had Olympic aspirations before the Soviet war in the late 1970s. They train at the Olympic Stadium in Kabul, an ominous stadium that was used for public executions by the Taliban when they were in control of the country, less than 20 years ago. Although the Taliban no longer rules, they are still present in the country in the form of a hidden insurgency and remain a serious threat and source of fear. They attempt to compete at an international level, however they find themselves seriously outmatched by better funded and trained teams. Upon their return home, the athletes and trainers are subjected to death threats, not only themselves but their families as well.
The determination and will of the fighters in The Boxing Girls of Kabul are a wonder to behold. They are drawing upon a very limited talent pool. They have no ring. They have very little equipment and time to train. There is no amateur boxing circuit in their country, so there is no entry level competition, meaning they are put in deep at the highest level of amateur boxing right way. They live in constant fear that those less progressive could attack or even kill them and their families. A brother of one of the girls explains that he doesn't like that she boxes because he fears that, should the Taliban take control once again, they will kill her and everybody in their family. Another of the girls is told by a man who recognized them from the news that he would kidnap her if he ever saw her alone on the street. The head coach believes that a man nearly shot him on the street because he trains girls to box.
Yet despite all this, they don't stop.
Although The Boxing Girls of Kabul is only 52 minutes long, it stayed with me for a long time after watching it. It is multi-dimensional in its effect. It had me considering how privileged I am to be able to train and fight at my leisure (next time you complain about no showers at the gym, think of this movie). It gave me a sobering look to everyday life in a country where women were not even allowed to go outside until a few years ago, full of instability and unrest. It showed me will, resolve, and determination to be free at their purist. And finally, it had me asking myself this complex question: Would I still train and compete in my chosen hobby if it meant that my family would receive death threats?
Please watch this film. It's available on Netflix.