Sheffield Doc/Fest Review: Lift Like A Girl

Captain Ramadan and Zebiba

One of the ways in which many societies has changed over the last few decades is in the relationship between women/girls and traditionally macho sports. Whilst there was an initial push-back in some disciplines, particularly boxing, they’ve rapidly become areas where equal participation is starting to at least feel like the norm. Strangely, this is even sometimes the case in countries which place a strong emphasis on traditional and religious values, as well as on conservative gender roles.

Egypt is a country which is very conservative in nature and yet there are some areas where women have a surprising amount of freedom. Whilst it has all the gender-based issues you’d expect in a traditional Muslim country, there are green shoots of progress. On a shabby lot in Alexandria, the enigmatic Captain Ramadan runs a weightlifting school for girls who are determined to follow in his daughter’s footsteps and become Olympic champions. Their struggle is captured in Lift Like A Girl.

Lift Like A Girl is an enthralling portrait of tough love and commitment through the eyes of Zebiba, a teenage girl who dreams of becoming the best in the world. Mayye Zayed filmed the documentary over a period of four years and it highlights wider issues impacting Egyptian society from within the microcosm of the rudimentary gym. Like the rather charismatic mentor himself, Lift Like A Girl is a rather scrappy, lively and unflinching observational documentary with a lot of heart.

Lift Like A Girl screens at Sheffield Doc/Fest.

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