There is much debate among film lovers about the greatest sports movie of all time. It’s a futile debate, as the truth is abundantly clear; it’s Hoosiers, of course. Baglar, a Turkish documentary from directors Berke Bas and Melis Birder, shares a lot in common with Hoosiers but also some stark differences.
The major difference is that the film is set against the backdrop of the conflict between Turkish armed forces and the Kurdish Workers’ Party, who are struggling for autonomy from the Turkish government. It follows the Baglar sports club team, a hard scrabble group of home grown basketball players looking to move to a higher division.
They are led by Coach Gokhan Yildrim, whose passion for basketball is only matched by his dedication to the children of the town, who he and the team owners believe can gain respect and further the Kurdish cause through athletic success.
What the film does share with Hoosiers is the excitement of the game. It delivers suspense and intrigue as the team fights to win and achieve their dream of moving up in the ranks. It also introduces us to some fascinating characters, each with their own struggles and each looking to lose their troubles in the game. And their troubles are what absolutely differentiates itself from most sports movies. The film’s dialogue is at times overpowered by the sounds of fighter jets flying over the city, the political climate of the region is perilous and death is a constant threat.
While it may not be the greatest sports film, it is a harrowing and compelling glimpse at life in a different part of the world, as well as, a sport that crosses borders and means as much, if not more to those struggling with challenges we will hopefully never face ourselves.