Pitch Control: New Caribbean Cricket Doc ‘Fire in Babylon’

March 9, 2011

Words by Jesse Serwer


UPDATE: according to the NY Times, Fire in Babylon has been added to the line-up at the world-renowned Tribeca Film Festival, alongside films on Ozzy Osbourne and A Tribe Called Quest.

Cricket is not exactly a sport many people consider “edgy.” But in the 1970s and 1980s, Team West Indiesโ€” cricketers from across the Anglo-Caribbean islands compete against Britain and the other colonies as a single “nation”โ€” gave the genteel, “Gentlemen’s Game” some much-needed flavor. For two decades, they dominated the sport, reinventing it in a more aggressive fashion. But that’s only part of the story. Fire In Babylon, a new documentary from British director Stevan Riley, sets this triumph against the backdrop of the Caribbean’s reggae-fueled cultural awakening, South African apartheid and the racial riots that spread through England in the ’70s. For players like West Indies team leader Vivian Richards, the aggressive style of play and domination of the circuit was a way of striking back at colonial overlords. The phenomenon even inspired a tribute tune from Prince Far I.

Fire in Babylon had its world premier at the London Film Festival in October and (we hope) will make its US debut very soon. Interestingly, it is not actually the first documentary on the West Indian cricket juggernaut. That distinction belongs to the BBC2 production Empire of Cricket, which can be viewed in its entirety on Youtube. Tip of the hat to LargeUp cultural attachรฉ Anicee Gaddis for putting us up on game.