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Gendered Kicks: Buket AlakuĀ§'s and Aysun Bademsoy's Soccer Films

The globally televised 2010 World Cup in South Africa once again highlighted the similarities between the performances in and around the games as expressions of attitudes by players and spectators. Promoters of soccer claim that the sport connects people across social, ethnic, national, political, sexual, and generational divides on and off the field.1 While one might be optimistic about soccer's socially transformative potential in a general sort of way, for people concerned with sexist representations of women's bodies, the news is not so good. In the aftermath of the World Cup, websites attempted to lure viewers with provocative photos and videos of scantily clad female soccer fans. They used alliterative titles ("Sexy Soccer Superfans"), promised "soccer models in body paint," and previewed events such as "Body Paint Soccer Cup" and "Pornobol Germany vs. Australia" to rope in customers. The days are gone when spectators were simply treated to men exhibiting crazed fan behavior, wild rivalries, and other hyperbolic celebrations of masculinity. We thus have to view soccer through a theoretical grid that takes into account the sexualized and gendered conventions of the sport as spectacle.

It is therefore reasonable to conjecture that filmmakers who desire to make socially transformative films about girls and women playing soccer would be mindful of the hypersexual gaze constructed by these websites. In my discussion of Buket Alakus's 2005 fiction film Eine andere Liga (Offside) and Aysun Bademsoy's documentary trilogy Madchen am Ball (Girls on the Pitch, 1995), Nach dem Spiel (After the Game, 1997), and Ich gehe jetzt rein (In the Game, 2008), I argue that their soccer films work against the grain of popular consumption of female bodies that I mention above. Further, in that they thematize generational and class struggles as well as problematize profilmic intersections between generations, sexualities, social classes, ethnic groups, and religious practices, they represent important political interventions into discourses that concern second- and third-generation Turkish Germans.

Although the films under discussion are grounded in specific neighborhoods of Hamburg and Berlin respectively, Alakus's and Bademsoy's cinefeminist works should be seen in the context of global cinematic depictions of female soccer.2 In the following, I demonstrate that Alakus's Offside and Bademsoy's three documentary films put pressure on received orthodoxies regarding spectatorship. To this end, I put into circulation issues related to the "cinematic gaze" (Alakus) and the "look" (Bademsoy), because these are intricately connected to the directors' minority status as Turkish German women filmmakers and because their reconstruction of visual address is consonant with the genres they rework.

 
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