The Record – a two-part documentary mini-series, now available on Amazon Prime – tells the story of the 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup from inside the Australian camp.
In terms of the level of access the filmmakers got, The Record isn’t quite unprecedented – the team which made Beyond the Boundary about the 2019 Women’s Ashes tour got a similar inside track into the locker room, and in some ways made better use of it. The Record is relentlessly positive – it’s all team songs and patriotic pep-talks; and there’s no equivalent of the eye-opening footage from Beyond the Boundary of Meg Lanning metaphorically throwing her toys around the Loughborough dressing room after being bowled by Freya Davies in a warm-up!
Where The Record wins out though is in the use of a series of startlingly honest post-tournament interviews with some of the key figures involved, including Mathew Mott, Meg Lanning and Alyssa Healy. Not only are these totally uncensored, with enough f-bombs to make an NWA album blush; but they border in several cases on ‘saying the quiet part out loud’ in a way which is not entirely flattering.
Healy for example admits to having “blatantly lied” to the press about the pressure the team were under; whilst Lanning and Mott both acknowledge their attempt to lean on the match referee as he was making his decision as to whether Australia’s crucial rain-affected semi-final would go ahead, with Australia set to be knocked out if the game had been abandoned.
Whilst The Record to a certain extent treats all this as larks, the filmmakers must also have been well aware of the other sides of these coins – journalists will watch this, as will ICC match referees, and they might not go so easy on the Aussies in future, knowing what they do now. Mott and Healy et al may find they have become the footballer who goes down too easily, and then sees the referee shrugging when she really is fouled right in front of the goal!
Perhaps the oddest part of the whole film is the way it ultimately falls flat having to admit that the tournament technically failed to break the eponymous ‘record’ for attendance at a women’s sporting event, coming in a few thousand short of the 90,000 who attended the 1999 women’s football World Cup final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, USA. While we’d actually agree with Nick Hockley, who closes the show arguing that it didn’t really matter in the greater scheme of things, the program has just spent the last 2 hours telling us it did, including footage of the very same Mr Hockley on the day of the final checking the numbers on his phone every 15 minutes.
The lack of budget also starts to become apparent in the closing sections – they obviously only licensed a certain amount of footage of actual play, leading to over-use of Ken Burns-affected still photos to illustrate key moments in the final; and Katy Perry’s performance is overdubbed with “generic bombastic pop”, even as the Aussies are reminiscing about singing Firework on stage with the superstar, presumably because they couldn’t afford a license for the actual song!
If this is “history” it is definitely history written by the winners – Australia’s distinguished victories are accompanied with stirring classical symphonics; their tragic losses with sad piano melodies. Australia’s annihilation of Bangladesh is shown entirely without the context of it being a match played between the number 1 side in the world and a team of million-to-one-shot outsiders – it is a glorious win, and that’s that!
So unsurprisingly the degree to which you actually “enjoy” The Record may be strongly correlated with the degree to which you hold an Australian passport! Nonetheless, if you’ve got Amazon Prime it’s still probably the best thing you can do with a couple of hours this weekend, while you wait for the real cricket to start up again soon.