Review: This Is Not Cricket
by Camillo De Marco
- Jacopo de Bertoldi’s documentary on the values of integration tells the story of a friendship between two boys united by their passion for cricket, in Rome’s most multiethnic neighbourhood
What unites Fernando, a Roman boy raised by his Sicilian aunt, and Shince, an authentic Roman boy of Indian origins? Their passion for the most practiced sport in the world, second only to football, but which in Italy is practically unknown: cricket. This Is Not Cricket, Jacopo de Bertoldi’s documentary shown at Alice nella Città, an independent and parallel section of the Rome Film Fest as a special screening in Panorama Italia, tells the story of a friendship born on the field, the simplest answer to prejudices and borders.
This Is Not Cricket begins in a classical mode, with found footage showing Fernando as a baby and a voice out of frame saying, “This is me, I was born in 1994, the same year Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa, putting an end to apartheid. I don’t know why but, for me, this has always been important.” Perhaps because, in Rome, Sicilians too felt a little foreign once. Fernando was born and lives at Piazza Vittoria, the most multiethnic neighbourhood of the city, as everyone knows by now, notably thanks to the recent documentary-diary by Abel Ferrara who lived their for several years. Fernando’s friends have always been sons of immigrants from all over the world. That is why, one day, young Fernando went down to the parc and saw his peers playing a game he had never seen before, a game of British and colonial origins which, paradoxically, is the umbilical cord that keeps immigrants in Europe tied to their original country. We see Fernando interviewed on regional TV about the first year of the Piazza Vittorio Cricket Club. “That afternoon, Shince arrived, and while his parents reported his disappearance to the police, this escaped Indian child taught others how to really play cricket.” The two became inseparable. The main rule of cricket? A clear metaphor for integration: the batter hits the ball, leaves his home to reach another one, the race between one house to another being the most dangerous moment as the player can get eliminated…
The team, led by two idealistic coaches, is the champion in Italy. We see the trips, the discussions about girls, the arguments. But then people get older, the big family breaks up, someone starts to work and no longer goes to training, another prefers the mosque, some get involved in shady dealings, someone starts selling drugs. The club closes after seven years of activity. “You don't realise what you have until you don't have it anymore,” Fernando reflects poetically. In 2015, he and Shince dust off the cricket bats and start again, even though the team’s magnificent Indian pitcher now has a big belly. The two friends still want a multi-ethnic team, with values of the past. The director follows the two friends through the years – like Richard Linklater followed Mason from childhood to college in his beautiful film Boyhood – in a city with a tradition of hospitality but which today struggles to recognise its own children, the capital of a country where the xenophobic propaganda of the right gets stronger every day. In Shince and Fernando, the director seeks the projection of a possible future, in an open Europe, creating a beautiful documentary which Ken Loach would admire.
This Is Not Cricket was produced by MIR Cinematografica with Rai Cinema, with the participation of Cinétévé with France Télévisions, and support from the CNC - Centre National du Cinéma et de l'image Animée. Its development was supported by Eurodoc Media - Creative Europe.
(Translated from Italian)
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