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Huffington Post: ‘Over The Wall’ shows football tear down borders

September 28, 2012

Tainted by corruption scandals, racial abuse and players with egos as inflated as their wages, the world of football rarely produces stories of inspiration off the pitch.

It is about time then, for the emergence of a film that restores some faith in the human side of the beautiful game.

Directed by Jasper Kain and Matthew Kay, Over The Wall is an unlikely and ambitious hour-long documentary that touches on the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the Arab Spring and the role football can play in overcoming prejudice and discrimination.

It documents a 2011 tour of the Middle East by London’s SOAS University football team, organized with the help of Football Beyond Borders, an organization that uses the universal power of the sport to tackle political, social and cultural issues.

The tour takes in some unusual venues, with games played in Egypt’s largest slum, a Palestinian refugee camp and the national stadium overlooked by the giant Israeli-built wall that cuts illegally into Palestinian territory.

Along the way there are moments of real drama, as the team are caught up in demonstrations for freedom and democracy on the streets of Cairo and the siege of the Israeli embassy.

With Gaza inaccessible due to a series of bombings, the team seek entrance to the West Bank, where they must lie to Israeli immigration officials and smuggle their cameras across the border.

After one game, an opponent from the Balata refugee camp tells how his house was bombed and his brother was gunned down along with four friends by the Israeli military. Inevitably, the severity of the situation that these people experience on a daily basis begins to sink in.

“The mainstream media in our country doesn’t do the situation any justice, politicians in our country don’t do it any justice,” remarks one of the players as their tour is coming to an end. Another observes that the Israeli settlements on Palestinian land are “irreversible … a constant reminder of the occupation.”

Politically awakened, the players also come to appreciate the immense complexity of the conflict, expressing unease at the indoctrination of young Palestinians and noting how hard it is for young Israelis to resist a highly militarized society.

Despite its serious nature, the film also has its moments of humour, such as when a member of the team adopts a false cockney accent in order to get past Israeli border control with minimal fuss.

Throughout the tour, the players engage with local communities, running workshops for kids and raising money to help poor slums build football pitches. The idea that football can transcend borders is at the centre of this film and the narrator Kay notes that as their journey progresses, the players begin to see the sport in a different light.

“Football is a foot in the door that allows us to then explore these other things,” says one of the team. “It’s led to a level of interaction and bonding and discussion that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.”

After heart-warming scenes of the team interacting with Palestinian kids, the film ends with a sobering shot of the “apartheid wall” and the news that Palestine has failed in its bid for statehood at the United Nations.

A refreshing, inspiring and humanitarian antidote to the corrupt, corporate nature of modern football, Over The Wall is a unique and rewarding piece of cinema.

Rating: ★★★★★

There will also be a cast-and-crew screenings of Over The Wall, followed by question and answer sessions, at the Rich Mix cinema on 4 October at 8 p.m. and the Qattan Foundation on 9 October at 7.30 p.m.

The film will also be screened at the London Middle East and North Africa Film Festival on 30 October at 7 p.m.

For more info, visit or follow @walksoflifefilm on Twitter.

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