A documentary which takes a look at a community within the sports world which we don’t often hear about or even know about. Lift Like a Girl reveals the female weightlifting community operating in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. You might think this is quite a niche subject, but really it is one which hits on the subjects which make up all of women’s sports.
Mayye Zayed’s documentary has two central figures. The Girl in the title is 14-year-old weightlifter Zebiba and the other is her coach, the brusque but well known within the weightlifting world, Captain Ramadan. A man who does not treat his athletes with kid gloves because they are female. He has built his reputation upon the fact that he has coached two world class athletes – his daughter Nahla, who was a world champion and Abeer Abdel Rahman, a winner of two Olympic medals.
His latest star is Zebiba. A young teenage lifter who aspires to do what those two women before her have. We follow Zebiba as she trains with her coach and other female lifters in a derelict outdoor spot seemingly right in the heart of the city. It is basically an abandoned lot. We follow her over the course of four years while she trains. We see the grit, determination, pain, self doubt, passion, and verbal abuse she undergoes over that time.
Even more interesting than Zebiba’s athletic ability and strength is her complex relationship with her coach, Captain. A coach should always push an athlete, but at times the way Captain does this seems abusive – mentally and verbally. For a big portion of their time together Captain behaves like a bully. It is hard to watch at times wondering why this young girl does not crack under the pressure he exerts on her. Shows Zebiba’s mental strength.
The whole time you wonder whether Zebiba is going to make it. Not due to talent, because she has that en masse that is evident, but due to the mental pressure exerted on her. On top of that, by the person who is supposed to be helping her reach her potential.
Another interesting aspect here is the look at female sport in a society which is not supportive. In Egypt males in sport are the norm. Females are ignored and even discouraged from participating. Zayed’s documentary shows that empowerment for females is possible in sport even in a society like that in Egypt. It does take someone with plenty of inner strength, though.