Out of the Ashes (NC)

Timothy Albone, Lucy Martens, Leslie Knott
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The Independent Culture

Not every news story from Afghanistan has to be about bloodshed, poverty and war. This documentary follows the national cricket team as they set about qualifying for the 2011 World Cup.

At its centre is Taj Malik, the team coach who as a boy was forced to flee the country after the Russian invasion in 1979 and who honed his cricketing skills in a refugee camp in neighbouring Pakistan. Now he and his batsmen brothers Hasti and Karim are part of a team travelling the globe in competition with other minnows, their ultimate test being a World Cup qualifier in South Africa. Co-directors Tim Albone and Lucy Martens bring enthusiasm though not much finesse to the story, skimping on information at every turn. They overlook the details of match scores, for example, so that Hasti's batting heroics to beat Jersey are diminished simply through the viewer not knowing how many runs were required. And at a hierarchical level there is no explanation as to why Taj gets the boot as coach – though we watch him, touchingly, tuning into the World Service back home, to check on the team's progress. It's a stirring tale of an underdog having his day, nonetheless, and when you see from what grim circumstances these Afghan sportsmen rose, it is a remarkable one too.

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