Reviews & Previews - Fire In Babylon

Posted on Saturday, July 16, 2011 at 06:00 PM

Fire In Babylon

By: S. Tran

Starring:Clive Lloyd, Colin Croft, Viv Richards
Director: Stevan Riley
Running time: 83 minutes

Babylon was an ancient city established around 1800 B.C. The remains of the city are near what is now Baghdad. I'll admit I had to look up that little bit of information. I will also admit that that sliver of knowledge is about as much as I knew about the game of cricket prior to watching this new documentary by director Stevan Riley. If you were looking to understand the game any better this movie really isn't for you. But it does provide an interesting insight and perspective about the West Indies cricket team that became a powerhouse in the cricket world in the 1970s.

Consisting of archival footage and talking head interviews with former members of the West Indies team, Fire In Babylon examines the ascendency of the team in the 1970s. The cricket on the pitch shares the movie with the team's struggles with racism and self doubt. To the West Indies team winning became important not only to show people that they were serious athletes but to demonstrate to their former oppressors that they were equals, on and off the field.

The film begins with the West Indies team being blown out in Australia and returning home. Captain Clive Lloyd is determined not to let it happen again and begins to change the way the team approaches the game. Realizing that the future of the game depended on pace bowlers (the equivalent of pitchers in baseball) he sets out to recruit the fastest bowlers he can find. Until that point the team was regarded as entertaining, but not seen as serious contenders. 

With the addition of the fast bowlers the team set out to change its approach to the game. The West Indies team became more focused and a much more aggressive team. Although not clearly explained in the movie apparently it is legal in cricket for the bowler to actually hit the batsmen with the ball. Led by Colin Croft, the team begins to take advantage of this rule and becomes an intimidating power in the world of cricket; well, as intimidating as a group of guys wearing matching v-neck sweaters can be.

For the team though it was not just about the battle on the field. In a time where apartheid was still the policy in South Africa racism was a constant struggle for the team. Openly hostile fans and opposing players, racial slurs and inequal pay were constant reminders that only the cricket field could provide a level playing field. Even there however a double standard existed as the tactics used against the West Indies team were suddenly deemed too dangerous when used successfully by the team.

The film is interesting but I found that as someone who knew nothing about cricket I wanted at least a few minutes spent educating me about the game. I think this would have allowed me a little more insight into the effects of what was happening. For instance, the whole controversy about hitting batters would have been more clear to me if someone had just set out the rules around that for some context.

While I give the director credit for trying to discuss the issue of racism of the time I felt that the subject was too big for the film to handle in 83 minutes. Culture as sport and sport as culture have been explored in many films and sometimes it works, but usually it works when the focus is on one or the other. Here I thought the movie tried to split its time too much between the two issues which took a bit away from both. I would have liked more insight into cricket, the rules, the history of cricket in the West Indies, and especially the characters on that team.

If you are a cricket fan this could be an engrossing movie for you. For non cricket fans it is still a good film, with a pretty good soundtrack of West Indies music, but it won't give you much more than a quick glimpse into a sport many of us are unfamiliar with. While the stories of the team members are presented well, they don't go into enough depth to really involve you into the lives of the men. 

2.5 stars out of 5.

S. Tran also writes at, and

NOTE: The showtimes listed on come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to