‘Rising From Ashes‘ is an inspiring documentary about the how hope returned to Rwanda via a biking team. Narrated by Forest Whitaker and directed by T.C. Johnstone, it all started when Tom Ritchey heard about hope returning to Rwanda through bicycles and felt moved to visit the country he had only heard about. After his first trip of biking with them, he wanted to bring more people to encourage the small nation that was trying to get back onto its feet after a horrendous genocide. He knew he had to help them, so he approached John “Jock” Boyer to create a cycling team in Rwanda.
Having gone through trials of his own, Boyer was reluctant but, eventually, agreed to live in Rwanda and build a team, training them and staying with them despite his own selfish desires. The history of the Rwanda genocide is explained along with personal testimonies from the bikers about losing loved ones in the genocide. The beauty of seeing ‘the past in their eyes’ was what deeply affected Boyer. He worked on teaching them to do two things while riding and working as a team. He explained his bad judgement calls and the difficulties after getting out of jail. With the Rwandans were rebuilding their country and spirit by means of biking, Boyer sees the parallel in the team and himself emphasized through their biking styles and choices. Like the famous 1993 film about the first Jamaican bob-sledding team, ‘Cool Runnings‘, this documentary is a story about overcoming a tragic past to build a different future as the first cycling team of Rwanda. The team’s successes were very moving and their losses were encouraging.
This documentary is beautifully scored; neither too heavy nor disturbing. Each song used has ethnic importance along with emotional value. With beautiful cinematography and plenty of footage, this documentary is epic and not only explores a different world of lives but transcends cultures to move the audience to feel hopeful. Everything about the 2012 Olympics and how the athletes represent their cultures truly brings tears to the eyes of the watching nation. There is no better way to express the hope, pride, and joy restored to Rwanda on that day.
As for 2014 Oscar buzz, this documentary should, definitely, be noted for the scoring by Joshua Myers and his team, and editing by Elisa Bonora and T.C. Johnstone. The cinematography is simply breathtaking and all of the elements of the documentary just work well together to bring about a beautiful story. This is a documentary worth watching and worth every bit of praise it has received from past film festivals.