Warriors is a unique documentary following a group of young Maasai who, in a remote region of Kenya, have remarkably formed a cricket team. They relate the sport to their traditional hunting techniques - the ball is the spear, the bat is the shield - and their flowing red robes in full flight are an awesome sight. We follow the team as they pursue their dream of reaching England, the home of cricket, and test themselves in the Last Man Stands World Championships. The tournament is set to take place in August 2013, with the opening ceremony at the famous Lord's Cricket Ground.
But there is a darker heart to the story. The Maasai are male dominated, women have few rights - even to their own bodies - and girls as young as six have suffered Female Genital Mutilation and early marriages. Traditional practices such as these have also contributed to the spread of HIV/Aids, and now many believe the future of the Maasai is under serious threat. The Warriors cricket team are using their new-found unity on the field as an inspiration to those off it, attempting to educate and give young people a sense of belonging, support, and hope. They feel changing some of the harmful traditions is the only way to safeguard the future of their own children. They dream of becoming as influential and inspiring as other Kenyan heroes, such as Olympic champion David Rudisha.
However, they face resistance from the elders of their community - well-respected and wise men who hold all Maasai traditional practices dear and carry great influence. They fear losing any of their traditions will herald the end of the Maasai. This challenges the bravery of the young guys in the team, as well as their convictions. They discover that changing the hearts and minds of their own flesh and blood can be the greatest challenge of all, but also the most rewarding.
Indeed, how can you retain your identity and heritage without hindering progress and a supposedly safer future? It's a question that has global resonance, even in the game of cricket.
The journey began way back in December 2011, when a stand-alone photograph of a Maasai Warrior striking a cricket ball lit a flame in Director Barney Douglas's mind. After extensive research, emails, phone calls and visits to the tribe, filming began in October 2012, continued in January 2013, and will be completed over the summer when the Warriors visit England to compete in the Last Man Stands World Championships.
The film has so far interviewed the players themselves, their families, herbal healers, the elders, women in the community, health workers, teachers, and also girls rescued from abusive families and childhood marriages. The community is telling the story. We've learnt about the traditions, about their love of the game of cricket, about their daily lives, their hunting tips, and their techniques for outsmarting lions and elephants! We've had incredible, unprecedented access. The journey continues as we hopefully follow the team all the way to the UK. All the way from a dusty, bumpy, hot field in a remote region of Kenya, to the manicured grass and rolled wickets of England.
The film has had some great media coverage, even at this early stage, including features in The Independent, ESPNCricinfo, BBC Test Match Special (above), and also a wonderful piece in The Times by columnist of the year Mike Atherton (below).
In December 2012 we were also delighted to welcome England international cricketer James Anderson on board as our first Executive Producer. He is helping with contacts & exposure in the cricket world, as well as potentially visiting the team in Kenya and providing them with some last-minute coaching tips ahead of the world tournament.
We've seen throughout the last century that achievements in sport can highlight social problems, begin calls for change, or at the very least light a fire in the bellies of the young and drag people from apathy. Think Jesse Owens, Black Power, Ali and the draft, Olonga and Flower's armband protest against Mugabe, even the Christmas Day football match in World War One. This group of Maasai cricketers are attempting to highlight deeply disturbing social problems and contraventions of child and human rights. As their reputation grows, they feel reaching England would greatly inspire those back home - particularly young people who may not be aware of their basic rights, their potential.
Style-wise, this will be no ordinary documentary. With influences ranging from Tarantino, Bob Dylan, African psych bands and Terrence Mallick, we're determined to make this something special. It will be psychedelic, poetic, imaginative, and emotional. We've invested our own money, as well as raised $16,717 via Indiegogo crowdfunding. This has helped us build up an early online following and audience. We are actively seeking further investment and welcome your interest - whether you are a cricket lover, Africa enthusiast, have passion for social issues such as FGM or HIV/Aids, or would just love to be involved. Thanks for reading!
Behind the scenes in Kenya
Get a taste of life on the road with these clips from our first shoot in October 2012.
James Anderson on 'Warriors'
Executive Producer & England international cricketer James Anderson talks about what inspired him to get involved.
Jimmy joins the team in December 2012
We announced Jimmy's involvement live on the BBC Today Programme and Radio 5 Live - all the way from Mumbai!