It’s not often that you’ll find me watching a documentary on a subject that I know very little about. And it is even less likely that you’ll find me walking into a documentary about sports. But “Fire in Babylon” is so much more than a sports film, and you don’t have to know anything about cricket to understand this Tribeca Festival-offered documentary about how a West Indies Cricket Team adopted and subsequently dominated the sport created by a country they had only recently won their independence from.
“Fire in Babylon” mixes interviews with former cricketers and musicians, archival footage and photographs, and reggae music and examines how the struggle to be accepted into the Cricketing society is likened to the Civil Rights Movement of the Sixties. During a time of great civil unrest the small team from the Caribbean Islands watched as South Africa was torn apart by Apartheid while they struggled to make a name for themselves in this white-dominated sport. Inferior players at first, they head to Australia for a test match in which they are humiliated. They come back the following year, fierce and competitive and end up dominating the sport for years to come. This success tends to anger the old-boy league and leads to much degradation and racism towards the all black team that in addition to being skilled, built a reputation for being uncompromisingly brutal bowlers.
Director Stevan Riley’s previous film “Blue Blood” was a hard-hitting documentary about the annual Oxford/Cambridge Boxing match that premiered at The Tribeca Film Festival in 2006. “Fire In Babylon” premieres at Tribeca this year as part of the ESPN Sports Film Festival – a partner of the Tribeca Film Festival.