Compelling and full of drama, heartache and joy, The Record does so much more than simply tell the story of the 2020 T20 World Cup.
There’s a moment in The Record—a new documentary from Angela Pippos and Nicole Minchin that tells the story of the 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup—where archival footage from Australia’s long history of women’s cricket plays on the screen. It’s those images, a respectful nod to those women who built the foundations that today’s stars play on, that remind us that this documentary is about far more than breaking a record for attendance for women’s sport.
“The record is, it’s almost like the story that they needed to sell to get the numbers at the match, but what ultimately happened was, you didn’t need the record at all,” co-creator, Nicole Minchin said.
Instead, Minchin says what sits at the heart of the documentary are the players themselves.
“It was the women and their skills and their determination and ultimately, at the end of the day… it heavily relies on what those people walking on the field can actually do. And they stood up at the biggest moment in their professional career and their sporting career. They stood up and they put on such an incredible show. I get shivers even just talking about it now.”
The idea for the project began taking shape in 2019. Minchin recalls a conversation with Pippos about the upcoming World Cup and the ambitious plan to break the record for attendance at a women’s sporting event—then, as now, held by the 1999 women’s football World Cup final between the US and China.
“We were both like, ‘this has to be the one’,” Minchin said.
It’s true that the much-hyped attempt to break the record was a significant narrative in the lead up to the final on International Women’s Day. ‘Fill the G’ was the chant and the hashtag but throughout the documentary, Cricket Australia’s plan takes a back seat to what was happening on pitches around the country as the world’s best cricketers plied their craft.
What Pippos and Minchin have managed to do is not only create a stage for those women, they’ve clearly built a rapport that encourages an openness and honesty that is refreshing to watch. Beth Mooney’s couple of well-placed f-bombs were a joy given the often heavily media trained responses we’ve become accustomed to from elite sport.
“We did all the interviews after the tournament, which was the best way to go because the guard was down,” explains Minchin. Players were also dressed in casual clothes, which Minchin says was a deliberate choice to allow them to be themselves, separate from the uniform and all that comes with it.
“We wanted to capture the players as they truly are. They chew gum, they swear… when you’re in their presence, it feels pretty powerful. And we wanted to acknowledge that, but also get an insight into what it is like to be an elite sportswoman. What is it like? What are they thinking as they step on the field?”
“I think that they all felt very comfortable in that space… and a lot of them were very keen to tell the truth of the tournament, because they had spent so long doing the publicity and the promotion, but really uncertain of what was to come. And this was a chance for them to say yes, we were stressed. Yes, we were under pressure. And we had to work to pull ourselves together.”
All of that comes through the screen. The emotion and the rawness, the spectacle of the tournament, the often-brutal nature of elite sport. Pippos and Minchin have stitched together those studio interviews and powerful archival images with behind-the-scenes and on-field footage to create a compelling narrative, one that—like all the best sport stories—is fraught with drama, unscripted theatre that makes you laugh and cry, and most importantly, with people.
It’s the people—the players—that stand out. Their stories. It’s a well-told tale now, the road the Australian team took to that final at the MCG on International Women’s Day: the first up loss to India, and the shaky beginning to the game against Sri Lanka. But none of it feels overdone in The Record. Instead, we’re transported back to those moments where our bellies were filled with nerves as we willed the Aussies onwards.
Pippos and Minchin are no strangers to making compelling and emotive documentaries about women’s sport. In 2017, the duo co-wrote and co-produced League of Her Own and later Heroes—both about the AFLW. While The Record is looking at a different ball game, the playbook is similar in that women unapologetically take up space. It’s the players—the likes of Meg Lanning, Alyssa Healy, Beth Mooney and Megan Schutt alongside English captain Heather Knight and Indian captain Harmanpreet Kaur—that take centre stage.
This taking up of space, in this case one of the biggest spaces in Australian sport, is a central theme of the documentary. It’s brought home by something Alyssa Healy says about growing up never seeing the Australian women’s team. For generations, this has been the experience for women’s sport; never front and centre, and rarely if ever on the TV or in the pages of the newspapers. The next Alyssa Healy, playing U13s cricket somewhere in Australia will never experience this. She’ll see that national team, she’ll watch them on TV and she’ll watch documentaries like The Record.
Visibility for women’s sport is inherently political. There’s no shying away from that and Pippos and Minchin don’t shrink from it. “It was such a significant moment in history,” explains Pippos. “But now we have to make sure that it doesn’t become a one off.”
“This is the challenge for all sports. Now that you’ve seen what is possible, you’ve got to get your own house in order. This happened, because cricket had the will to do something about it. And the will to invest in women and do it properly. And we all saw the results of that and it was spectacular.”
Keen-eyed viewers will note shots throughout the documentary of statues outside and walls of photos inside at iconic grounds like the SCG and the MCG. The faces captured and immortalised are those of men. It’s a strong, if subtle, point about whose stories are told. The Record immortalises the women of the Australian cricket team. It tells their story and does so in a way that doesn’t shy from the hard bits. The raw emotion, the heartache, the stress and pressure, and the joy: it’s all there.
The Record is not really about a record. In many ways, it’s not really about the World Cup. Linking the long and under-celebrated history of women’s cricket with the gutsy and hard-working and unwavering group of women of today, The Record demonstrates just what is possible when we invest in women. This documentary is about equality and it’s about little girls around the country, and the world, growing up in a world where 86,174 people filing the MCG to watch women’s cricket is what the world looks like. It’s also about a dramatic and nerve-wracking and gripping T20 World Cup. A World Cup we were denied the opportunity to really savour and enjoy. The Record gives us a second chance to do just that.
The Record premieres on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, February 12.