The Notebook

'Imagination will take you everywhere'

The Warriors Fighting FGM

A Maasai warrior stands illuminated by the setting sun; framed by the peaks of Mount Kenya that soar into the distance. Flexing his muscles, the young man could be about to launch a spear or burst into song and dance.

Instead he throws a cricket ball. And it’s returned with a forceful thwack from the batter.

Batting in Kenya

These are the Maasai Cricket Warriors – the unsuspecting stars of fledging director, Barney Douglas’ first feature-length documentary film. But they aren’t your average cricket team. And this isn’t your average cricket film. This is a captivating depiction of a culture on the edge of change.

Douglas is the founder and creative director of Heavy Soul Films, and has previously worked as a video producer for the England Cricket Team. Indeed his documentary delivers the emotional highs and lows of a cricket match.

But at the heart of his film is an increasingly controversial topic; one which has blown from the shores of Africa and spread like wildfire across the world. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is estimated to affect up to 140 million women and girls. Many people have contributed to the debate, but – as this film proves – to really end this tradition, it is the communities who engage in the practice that need to be stopped. So how does cricket have anything to do with FGM?

It doesn’t. But this is a cricket team with a difference. The Warriors oppose FGM and are using the sport they love as a vehicle for change in their deep-rooted community. They encourage girls to play cricket and develop their confidence. Ultimately their aim is for women to have equal-rights within their tribe.

Maasai women

Douglas expertly weaves together two narratives; one showing the power of sport to unite people and the other tackling the issue of FGM head on.

The viewer is taken along on the journey as the Warriors go from playing on a patchy, uneven expanse of land besieged by goats, to participating in the Last Man Stands World Championship at Lord’s – the Mecca of cricket. All the while trying to convince their elders that the ancient practice should be stopped.

Disappointingly the team get knocked out at an early stage, but what they lack in cricket talent is made up for with their resilience, spirit and enthusiasm. Living up to the Maasai adage; “The eye that has travelled sees further; it is more enlightened than the eye that has never left,” the men return home with new-found courage – enough to finally stand up to the elders.

With breath-taking cinematography and touches of humour, Warriors is a heart-warming film that demonstrates the capacity of human endeavour.

Playing cricket

Warriors is available on DVD and to download from iTunes on 25th January 2016.

This review was originally published on ALT Magazine.


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