Eleanor Roosevelt said, "My message to women is to get in the game and stay in the game."
Utah's Jenny Mackenzie and her Mighty Cheetahs soccer team certainly have taken those words to heart and now audiences around the country are watching a documentary film about the Utah girls' unusual story.
"Kick Like a Girl" features the story of an undefeated Salt Lake girls soccer team that bumps itself into the boys division to draw better competition. The film's stars are the third-grade girls that make up the Cheetahs team, and also the boys they play against in their competitions.
The film is narrated by Lizzie, a plucky 8-year-old who calls herself a "soccer girl" and says of her teammates: "We're like a family. We're all like sisters."
Lizzie's mom, Jenny Mackenzie, started coaching the girls when they were 6. After a career change and a few weeks into competition against boys teams, she decided to document the season for a film.
"It is done from the fresh, honest perspective of an 8-year-old, but it is a gender-bender," said filmmaker Mackenzie.
The film chronicles the team's 2007 season and the comments of parents and players who speak increasingly openly about gender roles and gender expectations as season progresses.
Salt Lake's own Academy Award winner Geralyn Dreyfous, acclaimed for her documentary "Born Into Brothels," mentored Mackenzie on the project and is the film's executive producer.
The film opened at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in early February and has been accepted into three other film festivals around the country. "Kick Like a Girl" was just nominated for the prestigious "Billie" Award from the Women's Sports Foundation for the positive portrayal of women and girls in the media.
"We hope to take the film and its message beyond the screening room," Mackenzie says. She is marketing the film for 30-minute television slots. "I do want to share it," she said. "I hope it motivates and inspires people and creates an avenue for greater opportunities for girls on and off the field."
Utahns can see the movie at two screenings along the Wasatch Front. The first is at 4 p.m. Saturday, March 8, in the Foursite Film Festival at Ogden's Egyptian Theater, and the second at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 28, at Salt Lake City's Rowland Hall-St. Mark's School. Mackenzie, her creative team and some of the Cheetahs will be there.
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