For girls and women around the world, sports are much more than just a game to play. They are a platform that allows girls and women to demonstrate their strength, ability and power. They also provide a way to build confidence and develop leadership skills that they can carry into other areas of their lives. Moreover, they help break down stereotypes and encourage girls and women to become leaders in their own right. This is especially important, given that in many countries around the world, girls and women are denied access to a variety of opportunities due to gender inequality. As the United States celebrates International Women’s Day this year, it’s a perfect time to reflect on the work being done by sports organizations to accelerate the progress of women and girls in their communities. In partnership with espnW, the U.S. Department of State is launching a new initiative called the Global Sport for Peace and Development Program (GSMP: Empowering Women through Sports), which is intended to reach every girl and woman on the planet with the message that they have the potential to be powerful, resilient and strong.
The film’s first half introduces the viewer to some of the issues facing our planet, starting with the Amazon Rainforest which is slowly being converted into a savanna as a result of deforestation and climate change. From there, we are whisked to Australia where the Great Barrier Reef is experiencing one of its most severe coral bleaching events. At the same time, the film introduces viewers to a number of inspiring individuals and their work. These include Khalida Popal, an Afghan football player and activist who was forced to flee her homeland after being the target of serious death threats because of her activism. She now runs her own organization that uses the power of sport to empower girls and other marginalized groups.
Breaking Boundaries features a number of athletes and coaches who are making a difference in the world through their efforts in sports. However, a few glaring shortcomings keep this documentary from being as impactful as it could have been. The first is the movie’s clumsy, wrong-headed approach to the material. The filmmakers have decided that the only way to make this topic resonate is to pound the viewer over the head with bells and whistles. Unfortunately, these are so loud that they drown out the actual material, making it almost impossible to hear what is being said.
While the overall message of this documentary is important and worthy of being heard, the delivery is so flawed that it fails to achieve its goal of raising awareness about gender equality in sports. This is a shame, because there are a lot of women and girls who need to be heard and supported. The filmmakers should have been more mindful of this fact and crafted the film with that in mind. Instead, they ended up with a film that will appeal to the already-converted and will likely fail to engage the general audience.