“No-one in the world hates football,” says a brave young man from England while traveling down the Gaza strip. A bold statement, but in some way this seems to be true; in football, as in all other sports, words are unnecessary and cultural differences can be forgotten. This is the basic principle on which Over the Wall, a new documentary by Jasper Kain and Matthew Kay, is based.
The film follows the SOAS faction of Football Beyond Borders across the Middle East, from Egypt to Palestine. The name says it all really, Football Beyond Borders is an international initiative which uses football to “transcend socio-cultural boundaries” and create a way for dialogue and understanding.
It is a fresh take on a series of, what feels like, ancient old conflicts. Fresh not necessary for using sports as a tool to overcome differences and set aside worries but fresh in the light hearted approach, the views of the SOAS students, and fresh for their blunt honesty – something that in my personal opinion will appeal more to the hardened audiences of the 21st century than slick and smooth marketing campaigns.
Over the Wall takes us from the Israeli occupation of Palestine to the aftermath of the Arab Spring, all seen through the eyes of a young student football team that is curious, hungry for information and eager for change. True, the film itself might be a little rough around the edges from time to time but that doesn’t take away from the message and the quite often silly humourous moments. It is also not very surprising considering this is Kain’s and Kay’s first film, having only ever held a camera in their hands for the first time two weeks before their departure.
The first time directors also picked no light chore, having to film as the team are caught up in demonstrations for freedom and democracy on the streets of Egypt.
Another hurdle is Gaza’s inaccessibility. The only way to get in is via the West Bank, where the men have to lie to Israeli immigration officials about their motives while someone else smuggles their cameras across the border – a move that could have cost them their film and perhaps more…