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The unforgettable story of two Somalia National Soccer Team friends chasing professional dreams in the face of impossible odds.
The unforgettable story of two Somalia National Soccer Team friends chasing professional dreams in the face of impossible odds.
207 backers pledged $39,517 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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Why this film? Why right now?

When we turn on the news, we often hear about Somalia being a hotspot for terrorism and piracy, but rarely, if ever, do we see Somalia through the eyes of its greatest athletes born in its darkest hours. By focusing on the national team, the relationship of two of its best players, and the shared dream for peace, we hope the Somali people and viewers around the world will be inspired by the light emanating from these young stars.   

What has been done? 

We've been to an archipelago, three continents and ten cities to make "Men In The Arena" happen. The 4TB hard drives we purchased on our first trip to Kenya in 2013 are now full of character, intrigue, drama and hope. What has unfolded over the last few months is nothing short of remarkable and we're thrilled to have the opportunity to take you with us from here.

Why Kickstarter and why do you need the money?

If we succeed with this fundraising goal, we will reach for a secondary goal (yes, Kickstarter allows stretching if we're successful early)! Our plan is to use this money to wrap up additional shooting and begin to tackle translation, editing and sound mixing. The Somalia sports archives were destroyed in 2010, so we still have to hire crews, pay for local content in both Somalia and Kenya, and build extra graphics which will cost thousands. We also have quite a bit of filming to do here in the US.

Our timeline to completion moves forward and backwards based on our ability to grow the team and acquire the archive footage, rights clearances, music, color correction and various other pieces that go into making a documentary of this scale.

Meet The Team: 

J.R. Biersmith (Executive Producer & Director):  J.R. advises and produces content for a wide variety of clients: from wall street to main street, non-profits to national publications, notable personalities to family stories. Men In The Arena is his first feature length documentary film.

J.R. has a M.A. in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Miami and a B.A. in International Business from Bradley University.  He began his journalism career at The Miami Herald. 

Brian Bellinkoff (Executive Producer & Editor): Brian Bellinkoff is the EVP of production at Media Meld Studios, a non-scripted development, production, and management company based in NY and LA. His love for documentary film-making started at the University of Miami where he met J.R. 

Brian has helped produce two previous feature documentaries, one narrative horror feature, and is currently an executive-producer on the reality show "LogHeads" airing on GAC and DIY networks.

Brian's hope is that this film will shine a positive light on the faces of the Somali people and give them hope and the international support they need to score a much needed goal on the pitch but also in the world at large.

Liban Liban (Associate Producer): Liban was a full-time student working two jobs in Washington, D.C. until J.R. and Brian convinced him to add a third role to his plate. His language skills, experience with the Somali diaspora and relationship with the players has been and continues to be vital to our ability to move forward.

The Inspiration:  Michelle Shephard, the Toronto Star national security reporter, wrote a book called Decade of Fear - Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone in which she shared the remarkable story of a seventeen-year-old in Mogadishu who refused to join al-Shaabab. Michelle's support and advice would later prove critical to our success in filming in Mogadishu. 

How did you get access to the team?  After almost a year of research and multiple attempts to reach the Somalia Football Federation (SFF), we established contact in August 2013. One month later, on Sept. 14, 2013, we learned that FIFA had invited the SFF Secretary General to French Polynesia for the Beach Soccer World Cup. Knowing this was an opportunity to meet in a safe place, J.R. flew to Papeete three days later. 

In November 2013, J.R. & Brian first filmed the national team while they competed in the oldest annual tournament in Central and Eastern Africa. 

J.R. with Somali Football Federation President Abdiqani
J.R. with Somali Football Federation President Abdiqani

Risks and challenges

The film focuses around the friendship of two players, each of whom have major events unfolding in their lives. Our ability to continue to capture these moments as well as key pickup shots is dependent upon security factors and scheduling that may be beyond our control. We've worked around issues like these for more than a year, so we're confident we can overcome obstacles but it can certainly interfere with our scheduling.

In 2010, the Somalia Sports archives were destroyed, therefore, we have put out a number of archive requests to national and local media outlets throughout Eastern Africa. We can still make the film without the fulfillment of some of these things but our costs could shoot up if we're forced to build graphics or come up with other solutions.

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    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Donor Wall! The website will have a Donor Wall and every person that contributes deserves to have their name included. You'll also get access to our updates as well.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    YES! YES! YES! When the national team gets hyped, that's the chant. We have a great "YES" moment still from the film we're turning into a postcard. Mail, YES! Access to updates and your name on the Donor Wall too.

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    DVD! You'll get an early release copy of the film, access to updates, a YES postcard, your name on the Donor Wall and access to updates.

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    Official T-Shirt & DVD! You'll also receive the official Men In The Arena shirt. A copy of the DVD, a YES! postcard, your name on the Donor Wall and access to updates.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    MEMORABILIA! The national team players will each sign their name and number to a hexagon on a soccer ball. You will receive one of the autographed pieces of the ball. Access to project Updates.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    SURPRISE! The other prize at this $100 level is pretty special so we're working on something to match that kind of goodness - we won't let you down! You'll also get your name on the Donor Wall and access to updates.

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    Pledge $255 or more About $255

    A Somali flag soccer scarf (blue with white star), access to updates, DVD copy, post card, and your name on the backer wall of our website.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Google Hangout with the director and Saadiq. Access to updates and a Bonus Features DVD copy. YES postcard signed by Saadiq and The Men In The Arena official shirt (delivery is subject to films completion).

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    2 VIP passes to the premiere. Thank you CREDIT in the film's credits. Signed post card, DVD copy. Access to film updates.

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    Pledge $2,500 or more About $2,500

    SCREENING IN YOUR TOWN! We'll hold a screening in your town. The director and/or executive producer will do a Q&A after (in person if schedules permit otherwise over Skype - March is an approximation). You'll also get the DVD, T-shirt, autographed YES! postcard and name on the Donor Wall.

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    Co-Producer credit in the film, DVD copy, Official T-Shirt, signed postcard by Saadiq, invitation to Google Hangout with Director and Saadiq, and access to all Updates.

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    Pledge $10,000 About $10,000

    Co-Executive Producer credit, 2 VIP passes to the premiere and after party, Signed post card, DVD copy, invite to Google Hangout with Director and Saadiq and access to film updates.

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Funding period

- (29 days)