Review: ‘Rising From Ashes’

Shot over the course of six years, the stirring "Rising From Ashes" charts the growth of the Rwanda national cycling team from inception to the Olympics, a success story badly needed by a nation still reeling from the mass genocide of a generation earlier. Engaging personalities and lively, good-looking assembly make T.C. Johnstone's inspirational sports docu a crowdpleaser that should appeal to broadcast programmers and home-format distribs, with niche theatrical possible.

Shot over the course of six years, the stirring “Rising From Ashes” charts the growth of the Rwanda national cycling team from inception to the Olympics, a success story badly needed by a nation still reeling from the mass genocide of a generation earlier. Engaging personalities and lively, good-looking assembly make T.C. Johnstone’s inspirational sports docu a crowdpleaser that should appeal to broadcast programmers and home-format distribs, with niche theatrical possible.

The story is told primarily via cycling legend Jock Boyer, the first American to compete in the Tour de France. But by 2005, he’d hit dark times; the pic provides little detail beyond noting his conviction for lewd conduct with a minor. Released from jail in his 50s, he found the beginnings of his own path to redemption when longtime cycling friend Tom Ritchey suggested he assemble and coach a racing team in Rwanda. Initially reluctant, Boyer was taken in by the raw talent at hand, particularly gifted amateur Adrien Niyonshuti, who’d lost 60 relatives in the 1994 bloodbath. The path from early training to international competitions is engaging, abetted by colorful lensing and an Afropop soundtrack.

Rising From Ashes

Documentary - U.S.-Rwanda-South Africa

Production

A Project Rwanda presentation in association with Significant Prods. of a Gratis 7 Media Group production. Produced by T.C. Johnstone, Greg Kwedar. Executive producers, Forest Whitaker, Peb Jackson, Dan Cooper, Jon Halbert, Linda Halbert. Co-executive producer, Nina Yang. Co-producer, Lee Alfred. Directed by T.C. Johnstone. Written by Gregg Helvey, Johnstone.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), David Eggerichs, Ryan Scheer, Jeremy Rodgers, Jeffrey Waldron; editors, Johnstone, Elisa Bonora; music/music supervisor, Joshua Myers; sound, Sean McCormick; supervising sound editor, David Barber; re-recording mixers, Michael Kreple, Barber. Reviewed at Santa Barbara Film Festival, Jan. 31, 2013. (Also in 2012 Hamptons, Austin film festivals.) Running time: 79 MIN. Narrator: Forest Whitaker.

Cast

With: Jock Boyer, Adrien Niyonshuti, Rafiki Uwimana, Nathan Byukusenge, Abraham Ruhumuriza, Nyandwi Uwase, Gastyore Hategeka, Tom Ritchey, Jean-Pierre Van Zyl, Dan Craven. (English, Kinyarwanda dialogue)

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