Carbon Arc Cinema review: Copa 71

I am the Artistic Director at Carbon Arc Cinema, where our mandate is to show independent Canadian, international, and documentary films. I’m part of a group of programmers who choose the films we screen. 

Directed by James Erskine and Rachel Ramsay | Written by Erskine, Ramsay, and Victoria Gregory | 90 min | Carbon Arc Cinema 

A rave-up of a sports documentary, Copa 71 tells the forgotten history of the first Women’s World Cup in Mexico City. The film forefronts archival footage the matches and of hordes of celebratory fans in two of the largest stadia in the country along with the recollections of the athletes — from Mexico, Denmark, Italy, and the UK — 50 years later provide the meat of the picture.

Copa 71 also serves as more than a footie doc, it’s a slice of forgotten feminist history. The women in these countries had to fight to be acknowledged as legitimate athletes at a time when the men wouldn’t take them seriously, and when they did actively worked to quash their dreams of sporting success because they felt threatened by the women. FIFA ends up the real villain of the piece.

When you see the film of the matches, it’s astonishing that this event hasn’t been celebrated for decades. The quality of the sport is high, and the enthusiasm of the crowd is next level. When these ladies in the present day share their memories of what it was like to play, and be treated as celebrities by the Mexican fans, it’s clear this was some of the best times of their lives.

As we enjoy the inaugural season of the Professional Women’s Hockey Association in this country while also acknowledging the absurd struggle women have had to get that league, this is a good reminder of the joy of professional women’s sports and how even when they succeeded, the men in power did their best to crush their dreams. You think it’s so different now?

Go to any sports bar on a Saturday night and count how many games, matches, and bouts feature male athletes, and how many feature female.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.