Out of the Ashes

Movies, Documentary
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Out of the Ashes
The Afghan national cricket team isn’t up there with the Zimbabwean figure-skating team or Swiss surfing squad for unlikely marriages of nations and sports, but this amiable documentary plays hard on the team’s underdog status as it flies to Jersey, Tanzania, Argentina and South Africa in 2008 and 2009 to play in the qualifying stages of the cricket World Cup. Directors Tim Albone and Lucy Martens mine gentle comedy from the team’s likeable, upbeat players. One of them ponders his trip to the Channel Islands and asks, ‘Do you think there are Muslims and halal food in Jersey?’ while the team’s coach, amiable Taj Malik, wanders around Dubai airport engaging travellers in conversation. He discovers that one man is an American on his way home, telling him with humour, ‘Oh, great, Bush, yeah!’

The cricket itself, as is so often the way with documentaries that adopt sports contests as their spine, isn’t so important and the film’s makers limit footage from numerous games to the minimum, although inevitably we share the team’s agony and ecstasy. The film is light on politics, with only the odd comment and radio broadcast about Obama’s presidential campaign offering us reminders of Afghanistan’s problems. More pressing are issues of cultural clashes and differences, reminding us that Afghans find English breakfasts and Jersey quiches (‘Are you sure there’s no donkey meat in this?’) as strange and exotic as we might find their food and customs. In the context of ample news coverage and more serious documentaries about conflict and politics in Afghanistan, this is a warm and humanising diversion.

By: Dave Calhoun

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Cast and crew

Director: Tim Albone, Lucy Martens