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Out of the Ashes (2010)

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Against a backdrop of war and poverty, Out of the Ashes, traces the extraordinary journey of a team of young, Afghan men, as they chase a seemingly impossible dream, shedding new light on a... See full summary »

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Credited cast:
Hasti Gul Abid ...
Himself - Afgan Batsman
Taj Malik Aleem ...
Himself - Afgan Coach
Harsha Bhogle ...
Himself - TV Commentator (voice)
Geoffrey Boycott ...
Himself - Cricket Legend
Ian Chappell ...
Himself - TV Commentator (voice)
Kabir Khan ...
Himself - Afgan New Coach
Nawruz Mangul ...
Himself - Afgan Captain
Gulbudeen Naib ...
Himself - Afgan Batsman
Karim Sediq ...
Himself - Afgan Wicket keeper
Ahmed Shah ...
Himself - Afgan Spin Bowler


Against a backdrop of war and poverty, Out of the Ashes, traces the extraordinary journey of a team of young, Afghan men, as they chase a seemingly impossible dream, shedding new light on a nation beyond that of burqas, bombs, drugs and devastation. This feature-length documentary follows the Afghan cricket team in their quest against the odds to qualify for the 2011 World Cup, premiering at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on 17th June. Backed by BBC Storyville and Oscar-winning director and cricket fan, Sam Mendes, 'Out of the Ashes' follows the squad over two years as they go from playing in their shalwar-kameezes on rubble pitches to batting their way around the globe and up the international league tables. Written by Tim Albone

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Documentary | Sport



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29 October 2010 (UK)  »

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Afghanistan's cricket team's rise Out of the Ashes and into a cauldron of associate nation cricketing fire, is an enlightening romp through some fascinating territory.
25 March 2011 | by (Hampshire, England) – See all my reviews

When Afghanistan were capitulating against South Africa in the last of their two round robin matches in the Twenty/20 World Cup of 2010;'s running text commentary described the flurry of Afghan batsmen holing out catches to the South African's fast bowling duo of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel as their "Cool Runnings moment"; an observation seemingly highlighting the part in their quite colossal story of sporting rags to world stage riches in which the globe stands up, regardless of the rather poor performance at a grade nobody even believed they'd get anywhere near, and watches them come apart at the seams as the level takes its toll. It described the moment nobody wanted to see but deep down, knew was never going to be too far away from probably happening. The commentator may very well have been onto something in this regard, making a capable link to both a sports film, that is; a connection of a cinematic sort and the rawness behind the tale of Afghanistan's cricket team. Out of the Ashes is the result of this hybridisation, a quite wondrous detailing of the proverbial Phoenix rising before going on to conquer whatever domains they find themselves inhabiting which leads onto other things.

That overlying sense of the team featured within this, a 2010 documentary covering the exploits of the Afghan cricket team, being true underdogs and the unfolding of a quite incredible story of a cluster of athletes gathering together to have a crack where others may mock or look on in disbelief, hovers heavily overhead. Some might criticise the film about the Jamaican bobsleigh squad at the Winter Olympics for being fanciful or contrived, here such an extraordinary tale of training; dedication and commitment imbued within a group of men within the world of sport is very much present and their tale is quite spectacularly a hundred per-cent genuine. Tim Albone and Lucy Martens' film begins on the world stage at that very Twenty/20 tournament, the roars of the crowd; the attention of the television cameras and the ex-professionals getting their words in, while everybody else watches on as Afghanistan bat and bowl against the force of India. A cut takes us right back to a proverbial beginning; a strip of turf somewhere in Afghanistan encapsulating men and boys playing an innings of cricket amidst a barren field of nothingness, a crude pile of rocks forming that of the stumps as kids too young to even join in hammer the odd stone with a makeshift bat pretending it to be the ball. The sequence very much establishes where it is cricket fans will know the Afghan's presently are in their cricket; the cut from the match footage a signalling of the director's intent to get under the skin of the story by going right back to the start of the tale.

The whole thing is, in short, a rather thrilling and enlightening documentary from that of Albone and Martens; a general covering of Afghanistan's cricket team from the doldrums of associate nation qualifiers to the 2011 50-over World Cup qualifying pool-proper; trials and tribulations and warts and all brought to the forefront along the way of journeying to what is the four corners of the world. In Kabul, the Afghan capital, news is often grim. Suicide blasts, fear of shelling and the mass evacuations of areas born out of panic dominate headlines; the film providing us with clips-and-pieces of broadcasts rummaging through such items, the one lone glimmer of pleasure or positivity appear as the brief excursions into the sports news as the Afghanistan cricket team and their exploits are documented in a far breezier and more enthusiastic tone. A sense of this team playing an important role in national pride, or moral, instilled as what it means to them and the news cooperations is put across.

Albone and Martens saw potential in this story, backed up by renowned director Sam Mendes' input whom we're led to believe had a say in proceedings. The team capture the story from the start; a first encountering of the Afghan's at the very beginning of their cricketing journey seeing them practise in some humble nets set up in some Kabul street, the coach named Taj Malik standing there sheepishly, gesturing for these Western journalists to come in. A British foreign diplomat or contact based in Afghanistan watches on, obviously gleeful at the fact these men are practising the sport of cricket but clearly finding most of it rather humorous in its sheer happening. The makers keep things flowing as the team flit from continent to continent; tier to tier; match to match, the team initially led by their exuberant coach Taj Malik whose enthusiasm and confidence sees him turn a waiting period at Dubai airport into a series of Brüno-invoked vox pops interviews on various issues – including that of cricket to an American. The rest of the team encounter various items within the cultures they discover: Jersey's Britishness; Tanzania's exotic beaches and Argentina's demonstrations of tango dancing just a pinch to that of what they experience, all of it fascinating.

As an individual piece, one might favourably compare it to Michael Apted's 2007 documentary The Power of the Game, specifically due to what that did for footballing nations one may not know as much about, Out of the Ashes not necessarily a cricketing film linked to that specific tournament the English and the Australians play for every so often, but doing what Apted's film did for the 'little guys' in sport. With the news that associate nations are stripped of being able to play in 2015's edition of the 50-over World Cup and onwards recently being announced, Out of the Ashes acts as a wonderful footnote in the argument for their inclusion when we observe the immense joy amidst everything else the sport and sense of competition brings to these sorts of players; the likes of which really ought to be embraced.

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