Out of the Ashes is a documentary about the Afghanistan cricket team’s joyously ludicrous journey from war to the Twenty20 World Cup.
Have you ever watched a film and felt completely and utterly unmoved by the most spectacular action sequences because you don’t care one bit about the characters in the film?
Okay, now imagine the exact opposite of that.
Your standard Hollywood blockbuster can depict the nation, world or universe seconds away from destruction and you’ll barely flinch. Here, the outcome of a cricket match played in front of a dozen people in Jersey can pretty much reduce you to tears. The characters and background are slipped in on the sly and before you know it, you’re emotionally invested in proceedings.
This is partly the skill of the filmmakers, but the emotional impact is also a happy byproduct of what is, in essence, an unscripted fairytale. At the start, the team is quite literally being laughed at, but when they’re being greeted on the streets of Afghanistan after gaining one-day international status, they’re the ones laughing. It’s pretty clear that in this instance something particularly good has been achieved through cricket.
In the DVD extras, Matthew Fleming rather cheesily says that sport is the only language that we can all understand. It’s not his fault that’s trite. When you see Afghanistan’s cricketers swimming in the sea for the first time or deducing the purpose of the green man at a zebra crossing, they can’t help but appear lost. Next thing you know, they’re on the cricket field and they’re playing against Nepal, Hong Kong, the Cayman Islands or Canada and it doesn’t matter whether they’re in Buenos Aires or Tanzania, suddenly they don’t seem remotely out of place.
This film is very, very good. We’ve got a copy to give away next week, but if you’re not the lucky winner, you should buy this DVD. It is a disservice to call it a cricket documentary. Depicting a world you don’t know and telling a story worth telling, it’s a brilliant film that just happens to be about cricket.