Canadian soccer documentary RISE perfectly captures the female sporting zeitgeist

From the outset, the most redeeming quality of RISE, a documentary on the Canadian national women’s soccer team, is the fact that it is showcasing a remarkable group of women who are serving as role models for today’s generation of young soccer players. So many members of the current Canadian roster did not grow up with any female soccer role models. Not only does this classify them as pioneers, but it adds to the athletic context of the documentary.

Directed and produced by American-born filmmaker Bobbi Jo Hart of Adobe Productions, her behind-the-scenes access spanned a period of three years. Condensing three years of research and footage into a one-hour documentary may have been an Amazonian task, but the result is a poignant and compelling.

Vancouver would serve as the main setting for Hart’s documentary, which is appropriate as the gold medal game of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup shall take place there. Also serving as the home of the training facility for Canada’s national soccer team, the most unique training ritual caught by Hart’s lens are the grueling yet therapeutic ice baths that players must endure for their tired legs.

Translating her vision into an entertaining package built on empathy and empowerment, while enlightening viewers in the hard work and sacrifice that entails the journey towards the World Cup, Hart perfectly blends the emotion of competition and the feelings of players through up-close and personal interview footage. Akin to the classic women’s hockey documentary “The Game of Her Life”, RISE serves as the jumping on point for novice soccer fans, while showing a warm and candid side to the players.

First broadcast on TSN (the Canadian version of ESPN) on May 26 and CTV on May 31, it has aired in repeats on TSN2. As a side note, it aired with French subtitles on RDS (Reseau de Sports), also part of the TSN family of networks. Having gathered game footage in Edmonton, Toronto and Winnipeg, Hart builds on the momentum from the 2012 London Summer Games, where Canada earned a bronze medal, the first in Canadian women’s soccer history. Of note, Edmonton served as the backdrop for Canada prevailing over South Korea in a friendly.

Contests in Toronto and Winnipeg highlighted the growing rivalry between Canada and the US. With a sold-out crowd at BMO Field in Toronto, the emotions of fans and players alike punctuates the perfect picture of patriotism while showcasing the growing impact of female sport in Canada.

Taking into account that Canada struggled through a last place finish at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the last three years have represented a dramatic turnaround. Not only does the crowd support in Toronto and Winnipeg (where they once drew 350 fans to a 1990 game featuring Canada’s women) emphasize the impact of said turnaround, but an exhibition match at York University where Canada defeated world ranked number 5 Sweden serves to strengthen the team’s confidence, perfectly captured behind Hart’s lens.

As an intimate window into the lives of athletic women putting soccer on Canada’s sporting map, RISE bestows the same heroic recognition once reserved only for male athletes. Proving to be an invaluable archive, a chronicle that shall stand up over time, its greatest victory may be the number of girls that may decide to start playing the game, growing up with the hope of emulating the likes of Kyle, Matheson, Sesselmann, Sinclair and Tancredi, among others.

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