|'Early scenes present simple sporting joy which will make you question the wisdom of paying your weekly season ticket fee for John Terry or Sergio Aguero's salary'|
Cricket, Maasai Warriors, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and the nature of traditional power and culture structures may not immediately seem like natural bedfellows for a film and, indeed, at times during Warriors, they are not. Nevertheless, Barney Douglas' Documentary presents a jolly, optimistic and at times beautiful portrayal of the way in which those worlds collide and the positive influences some are exerting over others.
Following a group of young, forward-thinking Kenyan Maasai Warriors, Warriors constructs a story of how a chance encounter with a want-to-be South African cricket coach led the group to begin playing the sport, on a small piece of unused ground. Early scenes present simple sporting joy which will make you question the wisdom of paying your weekly season ticket fee for John Terry or Sergio Aguero's salary: some of the Warriors walk for two hours in order to attend training.
Loosely discussed during the early stages is the spectre of HIV/Aids and the issue of FGM, which contributes to the spread of the disease. The young Maasai are opposed to the practice and in favour of increasing the role of females within their society, but Douglas deserves credit for giving a mouthpiece to the other side too. A conversation with the elders reveals that there is a special word for an uncircumcised girl who has children. One of them calls the thought of this 'disgusting and not allowed'. The exchange is shocking, in many way, but its frankness is also effective in showing just how deep-seated these beliefs are in traditional Maasai culture.
The film is on slightly shoddier ground when it attempts to link the young Maasai's cricketing exploits (which lead them to Lord's) with the abandonment of FGM amongst the Maasai. Douglas searches for a Cool Runnings-alike story, which is just about there, and then joins the returning Maasai back in Kenya, where newfound respect of their overseas exploits leads to positive influence over the elders. It just about works, but the links are sometimes poorly drawn, perhaps tenuous. Those inclined to some level of cynicism should also note that the film is in some level of partnership with the English Cricket Board (England bowler James Anderson is an Executive Producer), with the sport as a whole, the ECB and Lord's in particular coming out of the whole thing as shining examples of inclusiveness and positivity, though of the ECB representatives interviewed, only Mike Gatting is caught on film actually watching the Warriors play.
Warriors is released in UK cinemas on Friday 13th November 2015.
The 29th Leeds International Film Festival runs from 5th-19th November 2015 at venues around the city, including Hyde Park Picture House, Cottage Road Cinema and Leeds Town Hall. Tickets and more information are available via the official LIFF website.