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directed by Horace Ove
UK/USA 1986


When a West Indian cricket team from Brixton are invited to play a charity game in a small English village members of both teams have their reservations. A weekend in the country away from the inner city produces unexpected results both on and off the field of play. Playing Away subtly explores and undermines white and black stereotypes and succeeds in linking two familiar but strange cultures through the simple device of a cricket match.

From pioneering British filmmaker Horace Ove (Pressure, 1975) comes this comedy of manners with an outstanding array of British talent on display, including Ross Kemp (EastEnders) and Neil Morrissey (Men Behaving Badly) at the start of their careers, and a poignant performance by the brilliant Norman Beaton (Desmonds).

Excerpt of review from BFI located HERE

Theatrical Release: April 1st, 1988

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DVD Review: BFI - Region 2 - PAL

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Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:37:32

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 9.80 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

Audio English (Dolby Digital PCM 2.0)
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: BFI

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Horace Ove in conversation with Mike Phillips (30:01)
• Illustrated booklet containing essays and credits
• Dolby Digital PCM audio throughout

DVD Release Date: November 9th, 2009
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Chapters 8



Horace Ove's "Playing Away", the second of two films released by the BFI as part of their annual celebration of Black History Month (see also "Young Soul Rebels") comes to us in a relatively good edition. As far as the film goes, I can recognize the director's intent, but ultimately found myself not appreciating it as much as some. The film follows the exploits of a group of British-Jamaican cricket players who've been invited to play against an all white country team as a cap off of their celebration of "Third-World Week". Most of the humor in this comes from the cultural misunderstanding on the two sides, with both learning a little about the other in the process. While the film is quite genial, I found that it rarely elicited more than a grin from me. I suppose that it's a passable and mildly amusing diversion that occasionally strays into strangely off-kilter melodrama with overt racism and women in peril. Those who are fans of Ove's work will likely enjoy it, but I for one was rather luke warm towards it.

For a film that was produced for television in the mid-80's, it looks quite good. The BFI presents the film in its original 4:3 aspect ratio and it's free of damage and signs of manipulation. However, the film does look overly grainy at points, particularly in its first third or so. When this occurs the image gets slightly less defined, but this seems to mostly clear up by the end. Since the film was originally a production of the UK's Channel Four, I've seen some speculation online that it was shot on 16 mm stock. This seems consistent with the overall look of the film and likely accounts for the grain. I don't mean to give the impression that the film looks bad. Quite the contrary, I suspect that this is how it originally looked on television and in the theaters, and I doubt that we'll ever see it look better than this.

The BFI follow their recent trend of using Dolby Digital PCM 2.0 here, and the aural presentation is wonderful. The reggae music sounds stupendous and really comes alive. The dialogue is crisp and clear, and there are no unwanted background sounds like hisses or pops. The optional subtitles are for the deaf and hearing impaired (English only) and are unobstructive.

The release also comes with a booklet containing essays on the film, its director, and star Norman Beaton. The only extra on the disc itself is an interview with Ove conducted by Mike Philips, where they go into a lengthy discussion of the film and Ove's life. Fans of the director will surely want to check it out.

Although I wasn't a fan of the film, it certainly has its charm and those who liked it on its first run in 1986 will likely still find enough to enjoy about it to make it worth purchasing this decent package from the folks at the BFI. Recommended.

 - Brian Montgomery


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