By Kevin Kriedemann
+27 83 556 2346, kevinlikes.com
Skate soccer won’t be featured at this month’s Paralympics, but a new documentary aims to raise the profile of the bruising new sport.
Rollaball will tell the story of The Rolling Rockets, an inspiring team of Ghanaian polio survivors who are pioneering an extreme sport combination of skating and soccer.
Albert K. Frimpong, coach of The Rolling Rockets and executive director of SYDOGhana (Sports and Youth Development Organisation), explains, “The first game of skate soccer was in Lagos, Nigeria, but it’s now spread throughout West Africa. We played our first international game recently against Nigeria and are hoping to host an Africa Cup of Nations next year.”
Big World Cinema’s Steven Markovitz is producing the documentary, which is currently crowdsourcing production funding via a 30-day campaign on Kickstarter, the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects. After its launch on Friday, Rollaball’s campaign was immediately selected as one of Kickstarter’s Staff Picks and featured on Good Pitch’s curated page.
Steven co-founded Encounters, Africa’s most prestigious documentary festival; co-produced MTV’s Best African Movie 2010, Viva Riva!; and is producing the upcoming Jambula Tree, winner of the Arte Prize for Best Feature Film Project at Durban International Film Festival 2012.
Shelley Barry, a film director and disability rights activist, is associate producer. She asks, “Who decides which sports are played at the Paralympics and what criteria are used? Skate soccer is one of the most gripping sports I’ve ever seen, so it’s a shame that its inspiring athletes won’t be represented at the games, purely because until now the players haven’t had the resources available to campaign successfully for its inclusion. We want this documentary to help change that.”
In the last week, Rollaball’s vision has received high-profile endorsements from the likes of AC Milan midfielder and Ghanaian Black Stars international Sulley Muntari; Disabled Peoples’ International; paralympian Anne Wafula Strike; The UN Special Rapporteur on Disability; World Cup Skateboarding; and South Africa’s Department of Women, Children and People With Disabilities.
Rollaball received production funding from The National Film and Video Foundation of South Africa, won the Puma.Creative Catalyst Award in partnership with BRITDOC in 2011, and was selected out of 571 entries for the prestigious Sheffield Doc/Fest in 2012, but Steven says the current funding landscape means producers need to be more innovative than ever before. “Kickstarter is revolutionizing the film industry, because it allows the audience to take control of the commissioning process and fund what they want to watch.”
Rollaball is being directed by Eddie Edwards, who also helmed the award-winning sports documentary The Fight, about South African boxing champion Andile Tshongolo.
Eddie says, “When I first met the team two years ago, I knew they were something special. These guys face massive challenges off the pitch, as polio is still stigmatized in Ghana, so many of them live on the streets and beg for a living. But despite all the odds, they’re incredible athletes who deserve to be stars. They have inspired something in me and I believe they’ll inspire many others. Both on and off the field, their stories are legendary.”
To help make the completed documentary possible, visit http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/rollaballmovie/rollaball-skate-soccer. Depending on the size of your pledge, you will receive different rewards, like a digital download of the completed film; a box set of DVDs of the producers’ previous work; Batik cloth wrap from Ghana; or even your name as an executive producer on the films’ credits and on IMDB.com. Pledge options start from as little as $10.
Eddie concludes, “If the full target of $35 000 isn’t raised, Kickstarter will refund all contributions, meaning that we won’t receive any of the funding needed to complete production, so please help us spread the word. Thank you for your support; we can’t do this without you.”
Watch the three-minute promo video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cN4Y4RHMtAE.
“The documentary Rollaball is an important project to promote a deeper understanding of people living with disabilities. It will create crucial awareness of the skate soccer team who are playing sport against all odds. We salute the team and the filmmakers and support them in their endeavours to make the film.”
Javed Abidi, World Chair, Disabled Peoples’ International
“Sport is such an important part of life for everyone, keeping them healthy and bringing people together no matter what age, sex, ability or disability. Rollaball, about an inspiring team of Ghanaian polio survivors who are pioneering an extreme sport combination of skating and soccer, is a really inspirational story showing how courage and determination prevail. I always wanted to be a footballer and never let anything stand in my way, so I have the greatest admiration and respect for these guys playing sport with more barriers to success than most. This film also plays a vital role in highlighting the massive challenges that people suffering from polio face, especially in Ghana where it is still stigmatized and many have to resort to begging and living on the streets to survive. I wish the best of luck to everyone behind the film, particularly the inspiring individuals who have shared their story with the world.”
Sulley Muntari, AC Milan midfielder & Ghanaian Black Stars international
” An inspirational documentary on the spirit of humanity, which shows what can be achieved. Sport for people with disabilities provides the public with the awareness of the abilities of people and removes the barriers that causes prejudice and segregation.”
Shuaib Chalklen, UN Special Rapporteur on Disability
“Rollaball is an inspirational film that shows that no matter how hard life may be, sport can be liberating. It’s heartbreaking to see what these men have to do to survive on a daily basis – dodging in between busy traffic to beg for money to hold body and soul together. But when Sunday comes all is forgotten in the thrill of playing skate soccer, a game that makes them feel totally alive. Their ingenuity in adapting equipment makes for a fast and furious game on the streets. It’s exciting to watch and it really deserves a far wider audience. And who knows, it could one day be a sport to inspire persons with disability all over the world, and take its place alongside wheel rugby and basketball. For it’s not where these men live but how they live that will cause us to put life into perspective.”
Anne Wafula Strike, Paralympic wheelchair racer, author and polio survivor
“Thank you for sharing the inspiring trailer for the movie Rollaball. The production team has managed to truly capture the spirit of hope sport brings in the lives of persons with disabilities, irrespective of how desperate their personal circumstances are. The movie succeeds in transmitting the energy evoked in the participants when they get onto the skate soccer field to the movie audience, who cannot be but moved to smile and move along with the razor sharp movements of the players. A truly African solution for African conditions, displaying the African spirit through motion. A movie that has to be made to inspire persons with disabilities and their families in Africa and beyond. We wish you all of the very best in your endeavours and will be behind you all of the way!”
Lidia Pretorius, Chief Director: Rights of Persons With Disabilities, Department: Women, Children and People With Disabilities, South Africa
Other supporters include World Cup Skateboarding, Australia’s National Skateboarders Association, Crutches 4 Africa and The Menaye Charity Foundation.