‘I shouldn’t have to choose between marriage and football’ is a thought that echoes prominently as a team of Libyan women fight for the chance to represent their country playing football for the first time on a national level. Their opportunities are consistently being suppressed by the prison-like Libyan state they describe, but their courage and determination to play a game they love, and find the freedom and liberation they thought they were promised after the revolution which occurred in their country in 2011, is an inspiring and heartbreaking story combined into one.
Naziha Arebi’s tells her story beautifully in Freedom Fields. Shot over a five year period, the documentary follows three of the women who dream of playing football for their country. It zooms in closely on their daily lives, but provides a stark insight into the political and social climate in Libya as the country descends into civil war and the hopes of the Arab Spring disappear.
Described as ‘accidental activists’, the personal stories of these football players and their determination to achieve in a land where it often seems hopeless to even dream is an empowering and inspiring story of female bravery, oppression and sisterhood. ‘I will shrink’ one of the women exclaimed, and it is this quote which perhaps most poignantly portrayed the feeling of being demeaned these women experience on a daily basis.
The film is constructed almost to perfection, juxtaposing the players singing along to Adele as they drive to training, with moments of fear when the sound of bullets being fired echoes through one of their homes. It demonstrates the power of sport to unify women, and the heartbreaking truth that the idea of ‘freedom’ in Libya seems a concept only for the men. Their arrival in Lebanon for their first international tournament is a reflection of their strength and the climax of a story which truly deserves to be celebrated and told.
Freedom Fields is out now in UK cinemas, find a screening: https://www.freedomfieldsfilm.com/screenings