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Old April 23, 2004, 03:21 AM
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Default Cricket back in movie spotlight

A film the producers hope might become cricket's equivalent of Billy Elliot has opened in British cinemas.

Wondrous Oblivion uses cricket as the backdrop to the tale of a young Jewish boy growing up in 1960s London, experiencing racial tension and adolescent, multi-cultural love, while learning the values of loyalty and friendship.

Obsessed with cricket, but hopeless at it, 11-year old David Wiseman is delighted when a Jamaican immigrant family move in next door and erect cricket nets in their back garden.

Befriending them, however, leads to his family becoming ostracised by neighbours and the target of hate mail.

David (Sam Smith) is taught the basics by neighbour Denis (Delroy Lindo) and his daughter Judy (Angela Wynter) and eventually becomes a key batsman in his school team's quest for cup success.

Director Paul Morrison, who also wrote the script, first had the plot idea six years ago.

"I began watching cricket in the late 1950s and I remember England beating the West Indian tourists in 1957. But when they returned in 1963, with Frank Worrell, Gary Sobers and Charlie Griffith, they thrashed us," he told this website.

"I needed to make this film and doing it was really exciting.

"It encapsulates the period of England becoming a multi coloured society - a time of change that I think we're still living in - and it's probably the first film to use cricket as the narrative for this social upheaval."
Certainly the impact of Caribbean culture on the Wiseman family's austere, mannered world is as irresistible for the audience as for David and his family.

Denis and Judy display an understanding and warmth in teaching him the game entirely lacking in either his school mates or the street full of Alf Garnett clones in which he lives.

"We wanted to address the fact that having taken cricket to the colonies, by the early 1960s they were bringing it back to us in a fresh and invigorating way," said Morrison.

It is a period the film vividly captures by inter-cutting colour newsreel footage from Lords 1963, of a noisy and exuberant crowd, then almost alien to English cricket.

However, shooting the cricket sequences was a much harder task for Morrison.

Gary Sobers was the game's most exciting player in the 1960s

"Cricket is very difficult to film; it's presented so extraordinarily well on television, with replays and close-ups showing us the quality of the athleticism involved, that replicating this on film, especially when you're working with people who aren't necessarily natural cricketers, is tough."

Fortunately, both Smith and Lindo possessed a fair degree of athleticism and co-ordination and, with former Windies opener Phil Simmons to coach them, both look the part.

Arguably the film has too much of a 'they all lived happily ever after' ending, and Morrison is aware of this criticism.

"There was an earlier version of the script which ended more bitter sweet, but it felt unsatisfactory," said Morrison.

"We did a reading with actors and it didn't quite work. But the story evolved organically and it feels right, not contrived.

Phil Simmons was the film's technical advisor

"It's more than simply a film about cricket, though I hope it appeals to a cricket audience, and, like Brassed Off and The Full Monty, it's more than simply nostalgic.

"I'll be proud if it takes its place alongside those in the canon of modern British cinema."


[Edited on 23-4-2004 by rezwan1977]
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