The title "Rising from Ashes" refers to the history of these Rwandan men who, about 20 minutes into the 79 minute film, recount family members killed in the 1994 massacre. As with these resilient cyclists, the film doesn't dwell on the tragedy but would be remiss if it had not included the brief historical summary it provides, including Germany's and Belgium's imperialism that fostered hostility between Tutsis and Hutus. But the focus of this film remains the daunting goal of participating in the 2012 London Olympics, an unbelievable dream knowing that, for example, one of the aspiring riders has trained, until 1994, on a one-gear bike.
Enter Jonathan "Jock" Boyer, the first American to compete in the Tour de France and working his own way back from, as he puts it, "some very bad decisions," that led to prison time. Jock's coaching, the team's competitions from South Africa to the U.S., and the deeply moving team effort drive the action. Their togetherness is so strong that Jock stopped paying for three motel rooms since the riders all ended up sleeping in one.
An exhilarating feeling of literal and figurative momentum defines every scene. I rooted for a deserving triumph in the charming, ragtag team's efforts; but this isn't Hollywood, it's real life. Not always following a desired script makes individuals' struggles and triumphs all the more heart breaking and thrilling.
Forest Whitaker produced and narrates the film which won the Best Documentary award at the Heartland Film Festival, and it brought tears to my eyes. In English and Rwandan and French with English subtitles. "Rising from Ashes'" St. Louis premiere is at Webster University's Winifred Moore auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, September 6 through Sunday, September 8 preceded by director Brent Jaimes' documentary "Ride Hard, Turn Left: The Penrose Velodrome." For more information and the current schedule, you may call 314-968-7487 or go to the web at Webster.edu/filmseries.