Beyond the boundary starts with a montage – visuals from the different matches, moments of the Women's T20I World Cup 2020 pieced together, to start things off. You think this is a good start, even if this is a cliched one. That there must be more to follow. After all, it is about the historic tournament that was held in February-March in 2020, before all our lives came to a standstill. It involves some great teams, great players, an underdog story of Thailand, some remarkable individual stories etc.
The mega event was watched by more than 1 billion people, claimed ICC. These are indeed historic numbers for a women's cricket tournament which always lagged behind in terms of viewership. A lot of its success today has to do with the big steps taken by key stakeholders in women's cricket – the boards, players, broadcasters and sponsors.
In India, the game got a huge boost when the team went on to play the ODI World Cup final in 2017. They lost the match but their appearance in the summit clash resulted in more crowd inside the stadium and more eyeballs in front of TV sets. Mithali Raj, who for most of her career played some marvellous knocks in empty stadiums and without any TV coverage, and Jhulan Goswami who tirelessly bowled overs after overs, picking wickets in abundance, till then, were not household names even if they were present in General Knowledge books. Their records were printed in the newspapers, magazines, school books, but they were not remembered. Their act was described by a few journalists, but thousands missed watching them inside the stadiums or on TVs.
What the ODI World Cup in 2017 did was to present a blueprint to ICC and all stakeholders. That if marketed well, women's game can reach greater heights, with the sport changing fast and changing for good as new talented players arrived and brought their uniqueness.
In the last four years or so, a lot of change has happened for women's cricket and an average cricket watcher would not need a research book to tell you that.
But, to the utter dismay of this average cricket watcher, or any sports watcher, or, for that matter, a sports film/documentary enthusiast, research goes missing in a documentary which is meant to celebrate the success of women's games and capture its essence.
Beyond the Boundary, directed by Anna Stone, begins with a montage and continues to be a montage for the whole duration of the film. The director handpicks the marquee games, most of them involving India, Australia and England, and weaves a highlight package. What you see is match after match, players entering the field, playing the game, with the editor choosing to slo mo the action during key moments of the game. This happens game after game until the final.
Generally, a review would contain spoilers, but this documentary does not have any. Australia lift the trophy in the end, sharing the stage with Katy Perry and that's that. The credits start rolling. The documentary comes to a close. The formality has been done.
There are many brilliant stories which were not explored at all, the biggest of them being the Thailand team, which was playing its first World Cup. All that you see is their cricketers telling the camera how happy they were to be playing in the World Cup, combined with their visuals of dancing and greeting in their traditional manner.
There is no attempt in the documentary to go beyond the tournament and look at the history of women's cricket. The irony is so very much visible, for this documentary is called Beyond the Boundary.
Yes, the documentary was meant to focus on the tournament but not just the tournament. Without any background, where the women's cricket is coming from, and why this tournament was of much importance and how it has reached to a level that a documentary is needed on the same, it falls short of its objective by some distance. But then, you are also figuring out whether that was the objective at first place. A sixty-minute run time for a documentary makes you doubt it.
The duration is too less to capture the story of a tournament, let alone women's cricket. And knowing that the platform is Netflix, where time does not matter, it could have been longer, going deeper into the game, revealing dressing room discussions, picking the brains of the cricketers, capturing the emotions of a win, of a loss. What is utterly disappointing is that emotions, which are a key ingredient in a sports film, goes missing in this documentary.
At halfway stage, even these sixty minutes feel too much when you are watching it for it is filled with bland visuals, repetitive cliches. Throughout the run time, the director is taking help from commentators Ian Bishop and Mel Jones to make the narrative. This was a bad idea and you will understand it when you watch the documentary.
There is nothing more to offer in Beyond the Boundary if you have already watched the Women's T20 World Cup and if you aren't a keen watcher of cricket, you are not likely to go beyond the first ten minutes because you are unaware of many facets of the sport.
If you are looking to freshen up memories of the Women's World Cup, you can give it a watch. However, score sheets available with many websites can add more to your knowledge.
Fans and players deserved a better documentary on women's cricket. This is not even a great attempt.
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