Kick Off

Kick Off


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

It is difficult to judge this film without taking the circumstances of its making into account. Shot in a terrorist-torn football arena in Kirkuk, Iraqi Kurdistan, where refugees have built shanty shacks, and performed mainly by amateurs, most of whom are children, the real life dangers were as acute for the cast and crew as those depicted in the screenplay.

As well as touching upon the hardship of the refugees and the fun time enjoyed by the kids, writer/director Shawkat Amin Korki invokes more threatening influences, such as a construction company, the army and police. Anyone wearing a suit is suspicious, if not downright unfriendly, with the exception of a well groomed TV producer, who is ineffectual. The young women are lovely, the older women weathered. The main man, Asu (Shwan Atuf), with his fat friend Soka (Govar Anwar), wants to celebrate the victory of Iraq over Saudi Arabia in a recent cup final by holding a football match at the stadium.

Asu has books in his shack. He rides a motor bike. He doesn’t seem to have a job, but likes to organise things. Soka is the fixer. He knows how to make money quickly, which is important when you are buying shirts for the players, as well as a ball. How they transform the stadium and prepare for the game is the essence of the plot.

The photography is stunning and many of the set pieces are visually exciting. Korki is in danger of overegging his pudding, however, by repeating effective imagery too often – the black stallion, for example, and the laughing man with the goat. He wants his characters to be quirky and appealing without slipping into a morass of sentimentality. Compared to the Czech director Jiri Menzel, who made films about the absurdity of ordinary life for ordinary people under Communism, and Sandy Mackendrick’s Scottish period (Whisky Galore!, The Maggie), he is more dramatic in a cinematic sense, yet not as light footed.

Reviewed on: 17 Jun 2010
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Organising a football match amongst the ruins of broken lives in Kirkuk, Iraq.
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Director: Shawkat Amin Korki

Writer: Shawkat Amin Korki

Starring: Shwan Atuf, Govar Anwar, Rojan Hamajaza, Mohamad Hamed, Nasir Hassan, Soheila Hasan

Year: 2009

Runtime: 81 minutes

Country: Iraq, Kurdistan


EIFF 2010
Karlovy 2013

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