This documentary follows a group of young Maasai warriors in remote Kenya, who have taken the rather remarkable step of forming a cricket team. The players make a striking spectacle as they bowl and bat wearing their traditional colourful outfits. The clothing they play in is an important marker of their identity, and the interaction created between tradition and modernity is one of the driving forces of their lives and of the documentary.
The film follows the team all the way to Lord’s cricket ground in London. The Maasai warriors have been invited to take part in the Last Man Stands tournament, where amateur teams from all over the world come to compete on cricket’s most hallowed ground. The contrast and dialogue created by filming them in their traditional gear outside Buckingham Palace or in Trafalgar Square is both amusingly incongruous and thought-provoking. The photography and narrative highlight the fact that the Maasai community represents a way of life that is very different from what we’re used to in the west, but also that there are fundamental similarities, brought out by cricket.
The titular “warriors” are an endearing and articulate group of young men who are determined to use cricket to give themselves a voice within a community that traditionally only values the opinions of its elders. Although the narrative follows their experiences as cricketers, it is fundamentally concerned with another more serious issue: Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). In the Maasai tradition young girls are circumcised to make them eligible for marriage and the tribal elders are very vocal in their support for the continuation of this practice. The warriors, however, use their success as a cricket team to stand up for the rights of their sisters and future daughters.
What is even more extraordinary than a group of Maasai warriors playing this classically British game is that these young men are actively standing up for the rights of their sisters and future daughters. Their visit to London and their experiences there give them the confidence to address the tribal elders and ask them directly to end the practice of FGM in the community. They categorically tell the elders that they will not marry a girl who has been circumcised; if they want their daughters to get married, they will have to end FGM.
The narrative is neatly rounded and the issue of FGM is addressed sensitively through interviews and characterful close-ups of the tribe’s members. It’s truly a heart-warming story, which is told with style by director Barney Douglas, contrasting shots of the beautiful Kenyan landscape with scenes from the everyday life of the Maasai people. Warriors makes a difficult subject matter accessible to a larger audience and this previously untold tale undoubtedly deserves a place on our screens.
Warriors is released is selected cinemas on 13th November 2015.
Watch the trailer for Warriors here: