Saturday, October 13, 2012

30 in 30 - Day 12: Fire In Babylon

Well, it's two in the morning and I got home from a night out with some friends.  I considered leaving this review until tomorrow (or should I say later today) but I figured I'd whip up a quick (hopefully) review of a film that intrigued me since I put it on the list a while back.

One of the great things about watching all of these sports documentaries is that there are bound to be a couple that really educate me on a sport that I have zero knowledge in.  That is exactly what this movie was to me.

Tonight's film - Fire In Babylon

Fire In Babylon (2010)
87 mins.
Rated: NR (some racial discussion but an overall clean movie)

"Fire In Babylon is the breathtaking story of how the West Indies triumphed over its colonial masters through the achievements of one of the most gifted teams in sporting history.  In a turbulent era of apartheid in South Africa, race riots in England and civil unrest in the Caribbean, the West Indian cricketers, led by the enigmatic Viv Richards, struck a defiant blow at the forces of white prejudice worldwide.  Their undisputed skill, combined with a fearless spirit, allowed them to dominate the genteel game at the highest level, replaying it on their own terms"  (source:  official website)

I watched this this one online but can't find the link anymore.

As I mentioned off the top, there are some sports that I know little to nothing about.  Cricket is one of them.  Sure I've seen it and know it's on when I see it, but I know nothing of the intricacies or strategy - heck...I don't even know how they do the scoring or how long a game is.  But one of the things I learned very quickly when watching this doc - it can be a very vicious sport.

When that ball comes flying in at over can do some serious damage.  Jaws broken, ribs bruised and skulls cracked - literally.  What's even more amazing is the determination by some of the players to play through the pain.  Wow.

We learn through some of the West Indies players (notably Viv Richards) how the sport came to be in their area.  It was developed through the days of colonialism and slavery and was quickly adopted as an arena where they could be literally competing on a level playing field.  The sport was born in colonialism but many grew up with it in independence.

Many played the game the same way kids play hockey here in Canada.  In the streets, emulating their heroes and imagining they would one day be a star in the sport.

The struggle in the 1960's for the West Indies team was that the different islands in the Caribbean all convened to play under the West Indies title.  But this "working together" was easier said than done.  Leadership was difficult to come by at the time and a new leader - a mentor with strength and vision was needed.  Enter Clive Lloyd.  His motto....One People, One Nation, One Journey.

In 1975, the West Indies played a test match against Australia - a team that played with a ton of intimidation.  They had quite a few fastballers and the injuries for the West Indies were adding up.  That ball would hit you and it was as if you were shot with a bullet.

Decimated not only physically by Australia, they were crushed emotionally as well.  The team was in disarray, the fans were not behind the team, humiliation was abundant.  A rededication by the players was in order.

Slowly this rebuild would occur.  The West Indies would acquire a fastballer of their own, Michael Holden, and he had early success against opponents.

In 1976 they battled England, their "old masters".  Racism was a big component of the match and in one clip, a player from England said his team would make the West Indies players "grovel".  The motivation was unlike anything the West Indies experienced before.  They punished England - tremendously.  Some of the photos of these guys sporting their bruises was jaw dropping.  How they could handle the pain was unknown to me.

The music really lent to some great pace in this doc so far.  The editing, archive footage and overall tone of the doc is really enjoyable.  I was learning a lot and enjoying the ride.

This youthful West Indies team was turing into a group of grown men.  But in the spot of cricket, much like other sports, money is key and these guys weren't making as much as the teams from Australia or England.  The World Series of Cricket was created in 1977 to level the playing field.

The team from the West Indies struggled and was warned they needed to improve or they would be dropped.  A serious, renewed and dedicated team began finding their way.  They were more fit than ever, they had more fastballers than ever and became a dominant team.

By 1979, they were a force.  For years they dominated the game (wins over Australia, Pakistan, India among others).  The attitude was joyous with an emphasis on expression and celebration of culture.  Cricket in the West Indies became more than just a game - it was a lifestyle.

The focus turns to the anti-apartheid fight in South Africa. Many were affected in the Caribbean - they could relate.  Some West Indies players defied the South African sanctions and went over to play in South Africa.  The "traitors" ended up being banned.

The English press also trounced the West Indies and in 1984, the two teams met again.  England was a very good team with some of the best players in the world.  The West Indies though had a renewed cohesiveness and were at their very best.  Dominating  the match 5-0 (winning every test in the series).  The "grovel" comment truly came back to bite England.

The team from the West Indies earned respect and went on to continued greatness.  Many consider that team from that era the greatest in the history of team sports.

They went undefeated for over a decade (1985-1995).

This documentary was a really fun ride.  Some amazing footage, great storytellers in the players themselves and an intriguing story as a whole.  Little to no narration made it a little more of an organic doc.  The music really played a strong role and created a tone that really resonated.

The grand impressiveness of the team was not hugely focused on, instead it's the landmark moments.  For a team dubbed the greatest ever, I would have liked to have seen more of their tremendous efforts.  The toughest part (other than not knowing anything about the sport, or the history of rivalries, etc.) was that a lot of the people interviewed had thick accents.  I had to concentrate a little more than normal to catch everything.

A really solid doc that I would definitely recommend.  In fact, it's one that I'm going to keep an eye out for.  I'd like to have it in the collection.

If you get a chance to see it, please do.

3.5 out of 5

Here are some other reviews I found online for the film...

Rotten Tomatoes



Up next...Deep Water


  1. I watched this one last night. Pretty good stuff. Although, I still know nothing about HOW to play cricket! :-) Not that I needed to in order to enjoy the doc.

    1. Yeah, I have no idea either.

      This doc made me realize it's not so much about the sport...but the people who play it.