Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Another take on Empire on Cricket

I've already talked up "Empire of Cricket", a new BBC documentary with four segments on England, Australia, India, and the West Indies. This past weekend I watched all of them, and then repeated the segment on India. I intend to do the same with the other three segments.

EOC's strength lies in several areas: a decent balance of social history and cricketing action, selective and judicious focus on a few stars, wonderful archival footage, and that ineffable editing skill that sets apart the very good documentaries from the run-of-the-mill ones. It is weak in one very significant area: its producer is afflicted with a disease that makes him or her want to mess with action footage (either by adding special effects, or running graphics across the screen, or cutting away abruptly and so on). I wish producers and directors would let the action be and let it speak for itself.

There will be disagreement amongst viewers about the folks interviewed (were they the best for the task at hand?) and about what the interviewees said. That's inevitable. For my part, I wished Harsha Bhogle had indulged in a little less essentialism about the Indian character.

Anyway, go see it. Some of it will bring a lump to your throat. Some of the footage of the West Indian greats in relaxed moments off the ground is truly electrifying, reminding us that no matter how strong a modern team gets, they will not have the same, wait for it, aura.

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