Review: Raw Emotions and Sacrifices of Kuwaiti Olympic Athletes

The first open screening of Balsam Al-Ayoub and Faisal Al-Duwaisan’s documentary ‘Between Hope and Pain’ at Mefazec’s co-working space, on Wednesday, August 10th, left us with an indescribable amount of emotions. The end of the screening impacted each viewer.

Producer Faisal Al-Duwaisan and Director Balsam Al-Ayoub

Once the screening of the film ended, a Q&A was held, but Balsam, a fencer turned Director was overcome with emotion and left speechless, partly due to anticipation, as one of the athletes who was featured in the film, Fehaid Al-Deehani, was competing at the same time the film was playing, under the Olympics Committee flag rather than the Kuwaiti flag. A coincidence that placed us all on an emotional roller coaster while asking the makers of the film questions.

Balsam stated her frustration as she introduced Yousif Al-Askeri, an athlete who qualified for the 2016 Olympics but was present with us for the screening rather than in Rio. He was suddenly banned for “undisclosed reasons.” Balsam stated that we were gathered to represent the athletes stories for the people to hear, without them, she wouldn’t have become a film director, “they are the real icons of the country, and the real icons of the world.”

As she spoke those words, tears again began to fall down her cheeks, “You have true jewels in your society who are the real athletes, and no ones knows about them. Shallow people are followed by one million followers, but if you talk about an athlete no one knows about him, but he is the real icon, the real star, and the person we should support. This is what media should focus on, my job, today as an athlete is to focus on those stars.” Those words alone shook both Balsam and myself.

Yousif Al-Askeri not only expressed his extreme dissatisfaction, but he also said to us “When Balsam came and talked to me, I was relieved. Usually, when I do an interview my mother tells me to only speak of positivity and not negativity, but I reached my limit, I was not going to attend the Olympics or have any allowances. Now swimming became only for my advantage, my health and myself.” Yet, after the film, he was again encouraged by the attention given from the filmmakers, they pushed him to train for the upcoming competitions after stopping for almost four months.

Nevertheless, the atmosphere at the screening event was tense, filled with discussions over the matter at hand. One of the viewers, Ahmad Al-Failakawi, better known by his social media handle thearabgatsby expressed his support and admiration, “I loved the movie, and the emotions in it were raw. Shedding light on the problem that’s been harming all athletes in this country and hopefully change will come. Proudest moment for an athlete is to see their flag raised no matter where they place in the competition.”

At the end of the screening, news broke that Fehaid Al-Deehani won his first gold medal, but unfortunately, it was not under Kuwait’s flag, instead it was under the Olympic Committee flag. It would have been Kuwait’s first gold medal, but it wasn’t. That alone spreads a powerful cry from all athletes and the people. As Balsam said, “Athletes support athletes, champions create champions,” without them, nothing would’ve been achieved.




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