A sports documentary on the powerful story of the under-23 Indian Ultimate Frisbee team's journey to the 2015 World Championship was premiered virtually on the occasion of International Women's Day here. The story of 24 ultimate frisbee players of different genders, speaking seven different languages, and hailing from different backgrounds uniting for the championship, "Strength of the Pack" was premiered by the Embassy of India Student Hub in collaboration with Ultimate Players Association of India (UPAI) and Ultimate Australia on Monday.
The 2015 under-23 team is the first fully sponsored national ultimate frisbee team that was selected through UPAI's nation-wide merit-only selection process to represent India in a World Championship. It is the debut documentary of filmmaker Varsha Yeshwant Kumar. "It took me six years to realise I wanted to tell a story about Ultimate Frisbee. Once I started playing frisbee, I couldn't think of anything else," Kumar said. "Gender equity is an integral part of UPAI's vision for the sport in India, and we are excited to be a part of the Fempowered Films Festival that's celebrating Indian women in sport this year," said UPAI president Megna Shankaranarayanan.
"We are grateful for the opportunity to tell the inspiring story of our young athletes through the lens of Varsha, one of our own, a strong role model for aspiring girls in India - who has also represented India on a couple of other path-breaking Indian teams (2016 Team India Women at the World Championships & 2017 Team India Mixed at the World Beach Championships)," she added. Senior Indian diplomat Manusmriti, who is representing the Indian Embassy here, said "The International Women's Day is really a day to commemorate the struggles of women who came before us and who allowed our generations to be equal. In India, women have made many important strides and broken many glass ceilings."
The team's Australian coach Dan Rule said that having a mixed team meant that women were given equal opportunities as their male counterparts. "A key piece of our story is that the first team that Indian Ultimate pieced together was both an under-23, developing team, and also that it was mixed-gender," said Rule. "Being under the age of 23 meant India were developing their leaders for the future. And being a mixed team meant that women were provided the same opportunities at the elite level as men, from the outset.
The team elected a strong leader and female captain in Zahra Kheraluwala. Zahra spoke up for her teammates and for what she believed in - what a valuable asset to our team!" the coach added. The name of the documentary comes from a poem. "As a coach of the Indian team I saw my role as one of inspiring confidence in young people - to help them to realise their potential. I love the poem the Law of the Jungle." "The few lines of the poem I shared with the team were 'the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack'. To me, that's about understanding and being confident in yourself as well as sharing that confidence with your teammates - because it's contagious! A little bit of self confidence can go a long way," Rule explained.
The premiere was also the launch event for a two-day virtual India Student Hub Indian women-in-sports extravaganza Fempowered Films Festival, which will be held on March 19 and 20. Fempowered Films Festival 2021 Determination and Grit Indian Women in Sports celebrates women by amplifying the good and collectively striving to strengthen the sports ecosystem for women and girls in India.