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

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"Pull up your sleeves, come on to the street and start dancing. Because happiness is rare in a poor man's life."
31 December 2010 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

sings an Afghan cricketer at the end of this film, and we can see why. Over two years the Afghan national cricket team rose from never having played international opponents to narrowly failing to get into the World Cup and being accepted as worthy one-day opponents for the test-playing nations. The film looks at the players and their progress. There isn't much actual cricket- in an early scene, a British embassy official- presumably dealing with the team's first trip abroad to Jersey- chortles helplessly at the thought of what the Afghans- dedicated fast bowlers and sloggers- "They play as if it was a war." he says- will do when they face a good spinner, and from the few shots we see against Nepal they do indeed have difficulties against spin: on the other hand, it looks as if one of the Afghans is a pretty good spinner too in a later shot. We never learn anything about any of the scores or much about the games. The film concentrates on the players, their characters and the society they come from. We see them progress through Jersey, Tanzania, Argentina and South Africa as they make an extraordinary progress from tyros to the edge of Big Cricket.

It isn't pretty in some ways: the players are ambitious for themselves and Afghanistan in a way that none of their early opponents- part-time hobby players- would ever be. Perhaps that is why Geoffrey Boycott responds to and admires the Afghans so much; like him, they cannot imagine an unimportant game. When things go well and the government intervene it is ugly. Taj Malik, effective founder of cricket in Afghanistan, brother of two players, manager and coach is dismissed and replaced by a Pakistani ex-Test player. There is good reason- Malik's whole experience has been on concrete pitches; he has never played at that level. Even so, other countries would promote him to an honorary and honourable position and not just boot him out, but the players accept it: too much depends on their success not to. In the end though, Malik is welcomed back to watch Afghanistan's first one-day match against India. The other part of the film is watching the players' response to a world elsewhere: in Jersey, faced with miniskirts, the full English breakfast, line-dancing, stout Labradors ('Is that a bear or a dog?') and the sea ('We have rivers better than this!') they are too busy trying to get by in the game to have much culture shock; but when they get to Argentina one player spends all his spare time in his room and grows a beard to remind him of his spirituality- bikinis and couples kissing distract him- while downstairs his team-mates stare astonished at a raunchy tango which is part of the opening ceremony. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the team's rise to being a big fish in a small pond- do they realise how very small it is?- inspires national pride. In the end, of course, they fail. Mighty Canada gets into the World Cup and the team go home to prepare for the future. As I said, they get to play India- and get damnably licked- and their own small ambitions are fulfilled. Taj Malik, who is probably closest to the ideal of cricket as an amateur pastime to be played for its own sake, has been back to the refugee camp where he learnt to play and still coaches children.

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