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Film Review: Rising From Ashes
By Imelda March
Date: 8/5/2013
Film Review: Rising From Ashes
In 2012, Rwandan cyclist, Adrien Niyonshuti, realized his dream of racing in the Olympic Games. He was the flag bearer for Rwanda at the opening ceremony and finished the mountain bike cross country race, becoming the first black athlete to do so. Rising from Ashes the new film executive produced by academy award winning actor, Forest Whitaker profiles Adrien's journey through post genocide Rwanda to get to where he is today. The movie opened in both, New York and Los Angeles on Friday August 2nd. Visit First Run Features for national showing dates.

Jock Boyer is one of America’s most fabled cyclists. He grew up battling Tom Ritchey in Northern California’s competitive cycling leagues. Out of this rivalry a mutual admiration and friendship was born. At the age of 17, Jock left the U.S. to compete professionally against the world’s elite cyclists in France and in 1981; he made history as the First American to ever ride in the Tour de France. Upon his return to the United States, after a prolific racing career, he would lose it all. In this period of darkness, Tom reconnected with his long lost friend with an unlikely proposition, an offer to become the coach of Rwanda’s first national cycling Team.

The star of Team Rwanda is Adrien Niyonshuti. Adrien lost 60 family members in the genocide including six brothers and his mother’s entire line of heritage. Maybe because he sought purpose behind his pain, maybe he just had a gift, but Adrien started cycling. In 2006, he rode a mountain bike for the first time -- catching Jock and winning a local race, which forged the beginning of a relationship between two broken men. In 2011, Adrien qualified for the Olympic Games, a bold achievement that would send shockwaves throughout Rwanda.

Rwanda is a country recovering from one of the world’s most devastating genocides and their citizens have longed for heroes. The riders of Team Rwanda have become more than just a cycling team; they have become ambassadors of hope and men to look up to. They have given the country a vision of something greater than themselves and a renewed sense of purpose.

Two worlds collide when cycling legend Jock Boyer moves to Rwanda to help the first Rwandan national cycling team train and eventually qualify one rider for the Olympic Games in London. Jock teaches the Rwandan riders what it means to be a professional cyclist - how to train, how to compete, how to live the life of a top level athlete.

Overall impression

This movie has an underdog spin which is always appealing to the masses but it lacked deep character development. Other than learning about Adrien Niyonshuti no, other team member receives as much camera time to allow the audience to learn more about them.

Although Team Rwanda is comprised of members of both, Hutu and Tutsi tribes, which historically has lived in conflict, their general harmony in the film is suspect.

The unsavory part of the film is when we learn that Jock Boyer mentions spending time in jail on what he describes exceeding boundaries with an underage girl in the early ‘90s. I supposed this is his own rising from the ashes but more information should have been shared about his time and early release from prison.

It is good that the story of the Rwandan cycling climate and perseverance were brought to light, however, the documentary is merely a marketing piece about achieving one’s dream at the heels of uncertainty.

Duration: 80 minutes
Genre: Documentary with few disturbing images
Language: English and Kinyarwanda
Release: 2013
Tech aspect: Color, Dolby Digital 5.1., and DCP
Directed and Produced by T.C. Johnstone
Edited by T.C. Johnstone, Elisa Bonora
Narrated by Academy award actor Forest Whitaker
Executive Producers: Forest Whitaker, Jon Halbert , Linda Halbert , Peb Jackson, Dan Cooper
Producer: Greg Kwedar
Composer: Joshua Myers
Cinematographers: David Eggerichs, Ryan Scheer Jeremy Rodgers, Jeffrey Waldron

About the filmmaker : T.C. Johnstone (Director / Producer / Editor) began making films in Steamboat Springs over 10 years ago. After producing his first feature, he moved to California and began working as a DP and documentary director on a wide variety of projects ranging from national television (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Discovery) to independent films. He currently focuses on independent documentary feature films.

Learn more about the team by visiting Team Rwanda.

About the author: An experienced racer, Imelda March lives in Chicago and is a member of Team Kenda. She is a frequent contributor to The Daily Peloton Cycling News team, reporting on women’s cycling news and general peloton ramblings. She also holds an MBA, is a marketing strategy expert, and is a social media team member/contributor to the Chicago chapter of the American Marketing Association. Follow me at @hcram1.


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