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In 2002 cult classic Bend It Like Beckham was released. Starring Parminder Nagra and Kiera Knightley, the beloved sports comedy was quickly dubbed an honorary queer film favourite thanks to Nagra and Knightley’s undeniable on-screen chemistry that should’ve ended with the pair becoming more than football BFFs. But, no matter how much we wanted it to be, Bend It Like Beckham isn’t an LGBTQIA+ love story centred around muddy kisses or breaking down the queer stigma in Britsh Brown communities. Instead, it’s a cultural collision of grass-stained kits, goras and the South Asian image of girlhood – It’s the start of an important sporting story, but not one for the queer community. 

Since then, a lot has changed on and off the pitch. There’s been a record number of publicly out LGBTQIA+ players within the game. Newly released movies, like The Pass (2016) and Mario (2018), celebrate the love of football and queerness. And now, Tusk – directing duo Kerry Furrh and Olivia Mitchell – want to bring women’s football and queer stories to the big screen. In 2022, the duo travelled to Spain where they wrote a first draft outline of Ripe! on a quiet Catalan farm. What began as an exciting idea speedily transformed into a 19-minute Call Me By Your Name-inspired short film. Shortly after locking in Barcelona-based production partner Japonica Films, executive producer Luke Anderson (Juxtapose Studio) called upon pro-athlete Kelley O’Hara to help bring Ripe!’s sports love story to life.

Set in rural Spain, O’Hara’s production debut follows a tumultuous summer romance between an American and a Catalan teen. The film’s young protagonists Sophie (Raina Landolfi) and Gloria (Rita Roca) face a heated fallout on the pitch. Yet, despite their differences, they cannot help returning to one another. As things come to a head, the duo’s blossoming chemistry hangs on a tense trade-off: “Cook me dinner and I will forgive you”. In what begins as an awkward meal, the two reconnect over Sophie’s cooking and start to open up to one another.  Together, Sophie and Gloria uncover shared feelings and bittersweet emotions in this coming of age-of-age queer short.

O’Hara spent her early years at Stanford playing football. The player’s time on and off the pitch, she says, was shaped by the woman she was surrounded by. There was something innately powerful about being in a team, a collective that fought for the win and each other. So, when an old college friend brought Ripe! to her attention, the pro footballer was more than interested. “One of the main factors that went into wanting to be an executive producer on Ripe! is that visibility is so important. I want to see storylines like this played out for people to watch, whether you’re queer or not,” O’Hara says over Zoom from her home in Washinton DC. “It’s so important to be seen because if you don’t see it, you don’t know about it, you don’t understand it, you can’t connect to it.” 

The cinematic opening of Ripe! is hard to shake off: a beautiful pastel-washed backdrop invites you in, rich turquoise waves of the Mediterranean Sea flash into frame, and there sits Sophie, still, gently holding a peach in one hand. Queerness, O’Hara says, is framed in everything we see on the screen, an intentional characteristic put into play by Ripe!’s directors Kerry Furrh and Olivia Mitchell. “A lot of people on set were queer. Luke Anderson, who brought this project to me, is also queer,” she explains. “It’s important to keep that front and centre because that is what is at the core of this film and its storytelling.” 

Onboarding onto a new project may seem like an easy transition however, for O’Hara, it came with a caveat –  the USWNT footballer wanted to be “fully focused” on her career. In a way, O’Hara’s journey to the silver screen mirrors the film’s progression: a breakthrough and, then, a sporting injury. So, as her schedule changed, the defender found herself with more time and eager to take on something creative. “I’m a person with a lot of passions and interests and I love the film’s combined aspect of football and queerness,” she says. “Sport played such a big role in me coming to terms with my identity, giving me a safe space to do that. I’m really thankful that I had to navigate myself.” 


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We first see Sophie and Gloria together jostling on a pitch, the duo clashing – in style and personality – as they wrestle for the ball. Then, snap! Gloria rolls to the floor, screaming, clutching her broken arm. A close shot of a football dissolves into a parallel image – a box of ripened peaches. Whether it’s a glistened stack of fruit stall peaches or reconciling a relationship over a home-cooked meal, food remains as a committed reminder of the girls’ all-or-nothing relationship. The pair share intimate moments centred around food: Sophie makes Gloria dinner after injuring her in a football game, they share beach picnics with friends surrounded by food and when Sophie finds Gloria, after the pair argue at a party, making out with another girl, she’s eating cake. “Tusk have been so intentional about everything in the short and some bigger storylines will come out in the future – food is one of them,” O’Hara reveals. “We went through different title options and ended on ‘Ripe!’ and it sums up their relationship perfectly. There’s so many different subtexts that you can get from it and what it means for Sophie and Gloria.”

Temporarily swapping out the pitch for indie cinema is no minor transition and it’s a shake-up O’Hara has long been “excited” about. While none of her famous football friends or teammates have seen the movie yet, the big reveal is something she can’t wait for. And, after watching the rough cut of Ripe!, she has even more faith in the film’s ode to the ripening of LGBTQIA+ identities and the shedding of queer shame. “The landscape of football brings people together, you don’t have to speak the language. It allows for this connection; it is the global game,” O’Hara says. 

“Soccer provides a setting for these girls to get to know each other and work through certain emotions but the storyline isn’t all based on the sport,” she continues. “I love that it provides this landscape to their shared tensions. It’s sweet but there’s also some roughness to their love story. I feel lucky that I got brought in to do this.” Much like its title, Ripe! is still in the process of being developed. Final cuts have been made, music scores tracked and  Olivia and Kerry are hoping to premiere at film festivals this year. 

In the meantime, you can catch Ripe!’s new teaser trailer on Instagram as Tusk gear up for film festival season. What we can tell you is that the film ends as we hoped: with a dramatic, overdue kiss between Sophie and Gloria. And, as the movie’s title pops on screen, frantically flashing like a neon banner, it’s a reminder that some queer endings can be messy and chaotic but ultimately happy, too.