Warriors Film Review
It’s fair to say that cricket isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (although it’s certainly mine, so this review was never a chore) but then again there’s no need to be a fan of the game in order to appreciate this touching and uplifting documentary.
Let’s start with some statistics that Warriors throws at you before a ball’s even been bowled. Well in excess of 100 different countries play cricket, with over 1m teams worldwide. Just one of those comes from a Maasai village, and they are the ‘Maasai Warriors’, who come from a place called Ilpolei in Kenya. That stat is merely an example of the odds that they have had to overcome.
We are then introduced to the core of the team. They are Joseph, a fast bowler, Daniel, otherwise known as ‘Cricket Man’, Chris, an all-rounder, and finally Sonyanga, simply known as ‘Mr Cricket’. It is Sonyanga who is the major player in the film and the fulcrum of cricket in Ilpolei.
But it’s not just the love of the game that drives Sonyanga and his cohorts. Whilst they are justly proud of their community’s heritage and tradition, there is a dark side to keeping such customs alive. Like much of sub-Saharan Africa, HIV and Aids are all too common. If that wasnn’t enough, the ancient practice of female genital mutilation (referred to in the film as FGM) is still going strong even in this day and age, and it’s this in particular that the Warriors are trying to change.
In order to achieve this, their message has to be spread further afield, so their aim is to use their passion for cricket as a means to this end. A chance to travel to England and compete in the ‘Last Man Stands’ amateur championship, against sides from across the globe, presents the ideal opportunity to do so.
As Sonyanga puts it: “The eye that leaves the village sees further.” The hope is that their experience will empower them to challenge the perceived wisdom of the tribal elders, and catapult Ilpolei well and truly into the 21st century so that the young women will have a chance of an education and a life.
This against-all-odds tale is reminiscent of Rocky, Cool Runnings and any other you care to mention. As it’s a true story, however, it’s almost impossible for it to be clichéd. Having said that, it’s yet another demonstration of the power of sport, but with Barney Douglas at the helm it manages to do so in a fantastical way while still coming across as wholly genuine. No, you probably couldn’t have dreamed it up, but it still happened.
Complimenting the core footage are scenes of past Ashes contests from Lords, ‘the home of cricket’ and where the Warriors will play if they make the final, as well as Ilpolei where the elders candidly discuss the past, present and future of their community. There also several animated shorts that signify stages of the journey that the Warriors are undertaking – a thrown spear turning into a cricket ball being the most symbolic.
Together with stunning shots of the African savannah and its inhabitants, plus vox pops with such cricketing names as Michael Vaughan, Mike Gatting and Jimmy Anderson, Warriors makes for a superbly edited and directed 84 minutes. In fact, there is an interview with Anderson as part of the extras that come with the film’s DVD and ITunes release on January 25. Go to www.warriorsfilm.co.uk and #WakeTheLion for more.
Do the Warriors make it to the final? You’ll have to watch to find out, but one thing for sure is that the sound of leather on willow has never sounded sweeter.