By Alexandra Boyd, Mutton Club Film Critic.
Warriors review: nice idea but a confused message and some missed opportunities
Young Masai warriors walk for two hours to play cricket in a team started and coached by a woman. They have the greatest respect for her and love the game. They play in traditional red warrior robes in the foothills of Mount Kenya. No cricket whites for them. They’ve made the game their own.
However, like narrative fiction, documentaries need drama. A story that takes us on an interesting journey without giving away too soon how we are going to get there. A full thirteen minutes into Warriors, and out of nowhere, Masai elders talk about the ancient tradition of circumcising girls at a very young age. It’s a passage into adulthood of course. At that time the girls’ education stops so they can be married.
Back to the Warrior’s team who have made it to Lords Cricket Ground. But how did they get invited to play in London? What hurdles did they overcome to bring the team here? What were the experiences of these noble young Kenyans who’d seen nothing of Europe before? When did they meet cricketers of their own age and talk about the issues facing their homeland? Apparently, they are playing cricket and want to stop FGM but this film struggles to connect the two.
One minute the elders are sitting around saying it is wrong to change their centuries old culture and the next, the young Masai, presumably just back from Lords, are saying no more FGM and their daughters will not be cut. Then the old guys agree with them and embrace the new way of living in a modern world.
Millennia of tradition changed by cricket. Really?
I’m not a cricket fan. Not even a sports fan, but I know that team sports bring people and communities together. We’ve seen it many times in films like The Blind Side and Invictus. What’s not explained here is how these modern thinking young men, from an ancient culture, are able to get their important message across.
I suspect it was hard to find women in the community to speak out. The viewpoints are mostly from the men. Maybe the women were afraid to talk on camera. If so, that’s an interesting comment on how the women are still being silenced. One girl tells us she escaped circumcision and was allowed to go to school but how did she do it and who helped her? Her mother? One of the forward-thinking Masai warriors? Only one mother says, now, she will not cut her youngest daughter. But what was her own experience, what about her other female children and what changed her mind? Documentaries like Saving Face and India’s Daughter (made by a woman and produced by Susan Sarandon) do a much better job of giving the women involved a voice.
In Warriors, someone bought drone kit and a go-pro and got a little fly-over-the-African-plains happy. This film, in its earnestness to show one too many beauty shots of Kenya, missed an opportunity to show, in depth, what is changing on the Dark Continent. There’s some beautiful but sporadic animation too, but we need to see more of how women are beginning to be free of FGM, but are being silenced not just sexually, but publicly as well.
As an educational tool, this film should screen in schools to start a discussion on FGM. A barbaric practice still used by communities worldwide. Individuals responsible, some of whom are doctors, are being brought to trial in the UK at least but no-one has yet been convicted of this barbaric act against women and humanity. An act which has been illegal here for thirty years.
In Warriors the young people admirably trying to stop FGM in their community are those in charge but that is still the men it seems.
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Alexandra Boyd has been in the film industry for more than 30 years. She’s passionate about film and the roles women play in film – in front of and behind the camera. She spent ten years as an actress in Hollywood where her film credits include James Cameron’s Titanic, Mr Holland’s Opus and Luc Besson’s From Paris With Love. She returned to the UK, and after a stint on Coronation Street, packed it all in to become a screenwriter and film director. Her award winning short film, Boxer On The Wilderness, is a teaser for a feature about a 1920s Olympic boxer from Hackney Wick. She also raises funds and makes short films for GR8 AS U R, an anti-bullying organisation. Widow’s Walk, a supernatural thriller about a woman who lost her husband in Afghanistan, shooting in 2016, will be her debut feature. www.NewThirtyPictures.com www.alexandraboyd.co.uk.