Allihopa: The Dalkurd Story
(Canada/Iraq/USA/Sweden, 91 min.)
Dir. Kordo Doski
Programme: World Showcase (World Premiere)
Sports mesmerize people because, to many of us, they mean more than sheer athletic prowess. What’s attractive are the storylines: the special meaning of teams and players to those who follow them. Most obviously, many of us root for our home teams and local stars. But it can go further than that. In world football (or soccer) many Canadians cheer for their ancestral homelands during the World Cup and it isn’t uncommon to have favourite players from countries around the world.
The Kurdish-Canadian-American director Kordo Doski is an artist and a sports fan, so the idea for his film Allihopa: The Dalkurd Story falls naturally in his wheelhouse. Kurdistan is a land and a people without any official status as they’re divided into areas in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. They’ve suffered a lot as minorities in every one of those countries but have maintained their identity and most recently, fought heroically against ISIS for the West, which, as usual, didn’t support their cause for unification in the end. Documentaries about Kurdistan have understandably dealt with their tragic history and present condition. Suffice to say, there aren’t many happy Kurdish documentaries.
Doski’s Allihopa: The Dalkurd Story is that rare exception, a feel-good Kurdish doc. Since there’s no country called Kurdistan, they aren’t represented in the World Cup and there’s no domestic league for people to cheer on. However, many Kurdish people moved to Sweden in the past three decades, enough for there to eventually be a football team. Dalkurd is a squad made up of young Kurdish immigrants, or children from that heritage born in Sweden, mixed with some Swedish players. Formed in 2004, in Borlange, they have moved farther north to Uppsala but have maintained their identity as being the closest equivalent to a Kurdish national team. And if you can’t root for a team with that kind of origin story, you mustn’t have much of a heart.
Allihopa, which means “all the people” in Swedish, is a doc that covers a dramatic time in Dalkurd’s history. From 2004 to 2017, the team had played brilliantly, moving from Tier 7 all the way to Tier 2. With three games left to go, Dalkurd had to win enough points to join the Allsvenskan, Tier 1, the top division in Swedish football. That places a lot of tension in each match and allows us to focus on the games and Dalkurd’s top players and co-captains, Rawen Lawan and “Pasha” Azizi.
Too many sports docs only concentrate on their storylines and characters, ignoring the actual games themselves. Not Allihopa, which is well-shot with excellent coverage of the matches. The football isn’t ignored, nor is the politics and, especially with the co-captains, you get a sense of how well adjusted many young Kurdish Swedes are to their new country while still maintaining a love for their homeland. Allihopa builds to an exciting conclusion in the best tradition of sports films. To use the appropriate language, Kordo Doski has made a doc that’s a winner.