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Review Hindi

Kicking Balls review: Hopeful, inspiring look at a community combating child marriage

Release Date: 2022 / 36min

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Sonal Pandya

The documentary short by Vijayeta Kumar follows girls from four different Rajasthani villages who form a football team and live life beyond what has been arranged for them.

Vijayeta Kumar’s Kicking Balls (2021) begins with a normal shot of girls competing against boys in football. It’s 2019 in Ajmer, Rajasthan, and the girls-versus-boys match is both entertaining and competitive. Even as they lose, team captain Sapna gives a rousing speech of encouragement to both teams.

However, once we get to know the girls on the field, it’s a shock to learn that many of them are already married or engaged. Some were married off as toddlers; others at seven and nine.

This is common practice in much of rural India, though child marriage has been illegal in the country since 1929. It usually occurs as part of the ‘Aata Saata’ matrimonial system where two families agree to give their daughters in exchange in marriage.

Produced by Guneet Monga, Ashvini Yardi and Achin Jain, Kicking Balls informs us that 27% of girls are married off before their 18th birthday. UNICEF says India has the highest number of child brides, an appalling distinction in this day and age.

The documentary short by Vijayeta Kumar follows girls from four different Rajasthani villages as they form and compete in a football team, living life beyond what has already been arranged for them. Over 150 of them have rebelled against their families, their villages and society to enjoy the freedoms enjoyed by their contemporaries in urban spaces.

These girls learn many lessons as part of the football team, including a feeling of kinship due to their shared experiences and a sense of power and achievement as they move forward with their skills.

Luckily, many of them have understanding mothers and the women of the non-governmental organization Mahila Jan Adhikar Samiti who actively look out for their futures. Some, like Annu, also have supportive fathers. Annu's father is eventually ostracized by the community. Annu is able to obtain an annulment and mentor girls like herself in the NGO.

As much as the elders want a life ahead for these girls, so do they. They wish to study and be something positive, giving back to the community. This opportunity to play football and leave the confines of their villages has been freeing and empowering in more ways than one.

The documentary short shows how together the girls gather the strength to speak up for their rights. Many of them refuse to go to their in-laws' homes; others are looking to complete their education and get their marriages annulled.

Not all will have unanimous support and there are some setbacks. One of the bright, bubbly girls on the team, 16-year-old Pooja, is married off, reminding us that it’s not always easy to fight off family pressure.

Kicking Balls doesn’t have all the solutions, but it’s a start. The steps taken by this community to stand up to the patriarchy and hand these girls some agency in their lives is both hopeful and uplifting to watch.

Kicking Balls was screened at the 17th Mumbai International Film Festival held from 29 May to 4 June 2022. It won the Best Sound Design award for Pritam Das. The award was shared with Jose Rommer (Panama) for For Your Peace Of Mind, Make Your Own Museum.


Related topics

Mumbai International Film Festival

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