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Fire in Babylon
DIRECTOR: Steven Riley
In Rastafarian belief, the term Babylon stands for an oppressive force — the British colonial rule in particular. Fire in Babylon is the story of how a bunch of men from different islands in the Caribbean set upon overthrowing this subjugation, if only on the cricket field. For 15 years, they ruled the cricketing world with an imperiousness never seen before. It is the story of how, as Bunny Wailer (of Bob Marley and The Wailers fame) puts it in the film, "slaves began whipping the asses of the masters."
The film is not so much a sports documentary as a narrative of the impact that the rise of West Indian cricket had on the Caribbean people both back home and around the world — especially in England where millions had taken refuge during the '60s and the '70s.
Director Steven Riley gets the men responsible for this compelling tale to narrate it in their own words. Freewheeling interviews with Michael Holding, Andy Roberts and Clive Lloyd, to name a few, form the fabric of the movie. Vivian Richards holds the innings together in his characteristically belligerent style, just like he did with the bat. As always with all things Caribbean, Bob Marley, his philosophy and music, too play a significant role.
Riley falters in painting all the aspects responsible for West Indian dominance with the same brush. Richards was the only outspoken adherent of black power and politics. A majority of the rest in Lloyd's army didn't quite seek redemption in Babylon with the same doggedness. Neither was the modus operandi of Lloyd & Co as deeply influenced by Rastafarian ideology as Riley makes us believe.
Fire in Babylon also paints a panoramic image of West Indian life and shows us what the sport means in the islands. While the Calypso and reggae beats keep you grooving, the sensational archival footage — some of the bouncers are sure to make you cringe — and a no-holds-barred narrative of one of the greatest chapters in cricket history are sure to keep you glued to your seats.
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