L'Arbitre

About Ruhi Hamid

With a talent for bringing the best out of people to produce intimate enjoyable films. Ruhi Hamid has made several award-winning documentaries for the BBC, Channel 4 and Aljazeera International in the last 15 years.

A graduate of the Royal College of Art and a prolific graphic designer, Hamid started her producing and directing career with the groundbreaking BBC Community programmes unit making films for the BAFTA award-winning series Video Diaries and Video Nation, empowering ordinary people to tell their stories in their own words. This was well before the proliferation of the reality TV genre.

Hamid left the BBC to go freelance in May 2000. Her debut as a freelancer was the Channel 4 three-part series "Lahore Law" in which she gained unprecedented access to the Pakistani criminal courts. Ruhi spent four months filming and running a small team in Pakistan. The series was nominated for one of the broadcast industry's most respected documentary awards, the Griersons.

Hamid's empathy and gift for understanding the ordinary person has enabled her to gain access to peoples, cultures and institutions around the world, including the Amazonian Indians, Shamans in the Siberian forests, refugees in Uganda, women in Afghanistan and the British Foreign & Commonwealth office in Pakistan. Hamid is able to work with children and old people alike and turn her skills to more populist programmes working with rock stars, untried and professional presenters and celebrities like Michael Palin on a film about transport, explorer Benedict Allen, newscaster Samira Ahmed, the food writer and broadcaster Stefan Gates and more recently a film in a three-part series on Africa with Jonathan Dimbleby.

Hamid's interest lies primarily in telling intimate human stories of people caught up in complex political or social conditions in our world today. She has a talent for gaining the trust and collaboration of those sensitive and suspicious of the media. Ruhi is not daunted by difficult challenges. Her projects have taken Ruhi to various Muslim countries, she has knowledge and experience of filming in Africa, has made films in dangerous war zones like Afghanistan, Uganda and Laos and disaster zones in post-tsunami Aceh and post-Katrina New Orleans. Her documentaries are always character driven with strong narratives. Hamid's latest film on migrants is to be aired by the BBC’s flagship Current affairs strand "Panorama." Hamid is currently filming in Colombia and Venezuela for a new three-part series with Jonathan Dimbleby in South America.

In the Director's Own Words

What inspired you to take part in this project?

Having been born and brought up in Tanzania myself, I have a keen interest in Africa both on a political and social level. As a woman I have been concerned about how African women are progressing on a continent that has been ravaged by war, the victims of which are often women. With decades of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, rape became systematic and a weapon of war, it is perhaps the worst place on this earth to be a woman. So when I read about Madam Agnes Kapinga the first female referee I wanted to know more. During my research I realized that Mme Kapinga was not the only woman officiating at football matches in the football league in the DRC. There were many more, like Solange, and that women like her were inspiring younger women to consider refereeing football matches as careers. I felt excited about their potential and wanted to tell their stories. It was inspiring to see how three women from different generations all had the same passion for football.

Why was it so important for you to tell their story?

African women's voices and lives are so rarely seen or heard except as victims. To tell the story of Mme Kapinga, Solange and Ibanda seemed the perfect way to show the strength, resilience and determination that African women possess. I wanted to show how the beautiful game of football has helped them get past the decades of brutality and violence in their country. By refereeing in the men’s league they not only challenge chauvinistic attitudes but also become strong role models for other women. It is really important to show how women can overcome difficulties and are empowered by sport.

What excited you the most about this project?

The three women were all interesting to me in their own different ways. It was amazing to learn that there are great sportswomen in Africa with a passion, determination and ambition to be the best in the world. I was excited by the challenge they had each taken on by entering what is predominantly a male domain as a career. I was also very excited by the prospect of filming in a country like the DRC, just as the women are challenged every time they walk onto the football pitch and face 22 men, I felt similarly in taking my camera out in what can be a very hostile and dangerous country. It gave me a taste of what these women are up against in their daily lives, standing up on the pitch is just the pinnacle of the challenges they have to overcome to break through the barriers ahead for women in Africa.

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