Originally projected onto the Separation Wall in Palestine/Jerusalem on the eve of the 2006 World Cup, Goal Dreams is a documentary account of the struggles the Palestine National (Football) Team faced to whip up what is so strikingly absent in Palestinian culture: hope. Even if you don’t give two stuffed grape leaves about sports, this edu-docu-drama will capture, break and embolden your heart. The sport itself is not entirely incidental, but the film is about unity amongst people who have been essentially homeless for over fifty years.
The football (that’s soccer, you know) players, all of whom have Palestinian blood, come to Egypt from around the world to play for Palestine. Goal Dreams highlights the thirty incredibly stressful days prior to the “decision match” between Palestine and Uzbekistan, which will determine who goes on to play in the World Cup.
Training camp, if it can be called that, takes place in Egypt because (in case you didn’t know) there’s political tension in Israel and Palestinian Territories. As the film observes, any discussion about Palestine becomes—inevitably—a political discussion. Goal Dreams shows-not-tells what it means to be a Palestinian today, whether in New York, Chile or Gaza. Strangely, the team’s coach is a very difficult to like Austrian named Riedl. Given to fits of brow furrows and eye rolling, Riedl yells a lot, but does little coaching.
The team’s goalkeeper, Ramzi Saleh—a distractingly beautiful Gazan Palestinian—is key in keeping our non-politically-based attention. He is a devoted husband, father, son and brother. We kind of love him for that. However, we can’t help thinking about the palpable absence of women in this story. The women we do see are wearing abayas; some are munaqqabat (women who wear niqab, a full face cover).
Additionally, one player makes a frat boy observation about Swedish girls and Riedl considers “We are looking like girls!” the ultimate insult. (The Palestinian Territories National Women’s Soccer Team might disagree.)
Maya Sanbar, a Brit with Palestinian heritage, and Jeffery Saunders, a Jewish-American, are skilled directors who keep an unflinching tone throughout the film. There is a tastefully indulgent moment at the end when a player opines, “everyone should dream because without dreaming, there is no life.” Nice by itself, but even nicer with an image of David Beckham shouting from a wall ad in the background.