Lift Like a Girl showcases the one man and many women’s mission to keep Egyptian girls lifting weights, despite having almost no resources. Captain Ramadan is a likeable rogue who is constantly on the phone with politicians looking for help or funding to support his outdoor ‘street-gym’. His requests go unanswered and no financial help appears. When not lobbying the government for funding he is constantly coaching girls from a less desirable part of Alexandria to become Olympian weight lifters. He loves these girls and many look up to him as a father figure.
With many female champions having been produced by the Captain in years gone by, it is certain he knows what he is doing even if sometimes it looks like he is directing them from a rug on the ground.
The majority of the documentary takes place in a vacant lot, a seemingly abandoned piece of real estate that may have been a car park but is now a dusty square patch of hope. We begin by witnessing the Captain and some teenagers watering a few trees and attempting to hydrate the mini desert. As the film progresses so does the plan for this space. Bit by bit we see scaffolding and brickwork spring up around the street-gym. This lot is the girls’ training place and the equipment is a collection of brick a brack, bits and pieces of rusty weights, old gym bars, and worn-out mats. The girls themselves wear old and worn-out gym clothes. Adidas features heavily.
The Captian believes in the girls and pushes them. Sometimes his disappointment when they do not succeed is challenging to witness. He is a true fan of tough love, but his genuine commitment to improving these girls’ lives in athletics makes you love him and bear the harshness.
Asmaa Ramadan is one of the main girls we get to see grow. She has been nicknamed Zebiba (raisin) as she was so young when she joined. She is about 14 at the start of the documentary and we see this stoic and talented child struggle with the pressure of competition, rejoice when she succeeds, and crash when she fails. She is the Captain’s favourite and their bond is precious to witness. The discussion around what she can and can’t eat is another valuable insight into the true life of weightlifters.
The dusty lot is an island in the middle of never-ending traffic. The musical score to this documentary is the relentless mechanical hum of downtown Alexandria. We hear engines roar, horns honk, and it all becomes white noise as the girls focus on their goal to compete. Slowly over time, the vacant lot becomes an oasis of green surrounded by cars and fumes, the metaphor is striking.
Lift like a girl is a rare and beautiful film.
Doc Edge Festival 2021 will screen the NZ premiere of Lift Like a Girl. The documentary is available online from June 4 – July 11. Tickets and more information are available HERE
Doc Edge Festival 2021 Review – Lift Like a Girl
Reviewed online (screener provided by publicist), June 2, 2021. Rating: TBC. Running time: 92 min.
PRODUCTION: A Cleo Media, Jyoti Film, Rufy’s Films production. Producer: Mayye Zayed.
CREW: Director: Mayye Zayed. Cinematography: Mohamad El-Hadidi. Editing: Sara Abdallah. Music: Marian Mentrup.