Football Under Cover



Perspektiv Deutsches Kino

BERLIN -- Iranian director and football fan Ayat Najafi must have been hearing voices like Kevin Costner in "Field of Dreams" when he approached various bodies (including FIFA) to sponsor a friendly match between a local Berlin girls' soccer team and Iran's national women's team. But tackling all the political, religious and cultural defenses that stand in their way is harder than building a stadium.

Nevertheless, as Najafi says to his co-director David Assman, "In Iran, everything is impossible and everything is possible," the teams' refusal to give up pays off and the climactic match presents some exhilarating footage of sports fanaticism and girl power.

Do not expect the trenchant anti-authoritarian observations of "Offside" or any deep probing into the German-Iranian team members on their feelings of being "Persepolis"-like emigres visiting their parents' homeland. Politically inoffensive, bursting with teenage energy and softened by a lovely Middle Eastern-flavored score, the documentary will find a sympathetic audience among soccer lovers and young people. With the current popularity of films that mix women soccer fans with ethnicity such as "Bend It Like Beckham" and "Offside," this feel-good exercise might be able to score a golden goal in the worldwide market.

"Football Under Cover" kicks off with the Iranian members of the Berlin-based BSV AL-Dersimpor girls' soccer team waxing lyrical about the sport. There are the token tomboys and Beckham groupies, but more fascinating is one member's mother, who played for Iran's national team in pre-Revolution days and now coaches her daughter.

Najafi and co-producer Marlene Assmann fly to Iran to meet their potential sponsor, Iranol Oil. The ensuing tug-of-war to make the match possible is confusing and not as eye-opening as the directors intended it to be. The film only heats up at the match itself. Female audiences will enjoy a sense of vindication to see men (even the president of the association) banished from the stadium and get a taste of what the heroines of "Offside" suffered. The responses of Iranian women spectators make an amusing spectacle and demonstrate the utter impotence of the moral watchdogs present.

Flying Moon Filmproduktion
Directors: Ayat Najafi, David Assmann
Producers: Patrick Merkle, Helge Albers, Roshanak Behesht Nedjad
Directors of photography: Anne Misselwitz, Niclas Reed Middleton
Music: Niko Schabel
Co-producers: Marlene Assmann, Corinna Assmann
Editor: Sylke Rohrlach

Running time -- 85 minutes
No MPAA rating