Thursday, June 23, 2011
LA Film Festival: 'Salaam Dunk' Review
"Salaam Dunk," a documentary from director David Fine now screening in competition at the Los Angeles Film Festival, is a fascinating story about young women playing basketball in Iraq.
More than simply a stirring underdog tale about girls who want to win on the court, this film offers an inside look at the bravery, trust and friendship that are strengthened in a country where most men don't want to see women on the court at all.
The young women, who all attend the American University of Iraq -- Sulaimani in Kurdistan, are charming, driven and come from different backgrounds and beliefs. Some are Kurdish, some Sunni, some Shiite. What's amazing, though, is that most of them have never touched a basketball, let alone played on a team, before coming to this school.
In fact, when their coach, young American Ryan Bubalo -- who is at turns demanding and comforting -- asks them to go outside and run laps around a park, they all demure. Women simply don't do that there.
However, under the guidance of Coach Ryan, as they call him, these girls work hard to improve on their previous season, in which they didn't win a single game.
But it's seeing their determination on and off the court that's inspiring. Most of these young women have lived through devastation, whether it's from the previous regime or from the war itself. Despite that, they bond together in such a way that shows just how much female friendship and teamwork mean, no matter where you come from.
Fine has done a fabulous job of capturing that infectious spirit which drives people to better themselves, to find personal happiness and to cultivate happiness in others, despite whatever obstacles might be in their way.
(Note: While "Salaam Dunk" is certainly family-friendly and could inspire young girls in general and young female athletes in particular, some descriptions of Iraqi history and the current war might be best suited for middle school audiences and older.)
Friday, June 24; 7:40 p.m.
Regal Cinemas L.A. Live 13