Lower East Side
350 Grand Street, New York, NY 10002
F, J, M, Z to Delancey Street-Essex Street; B, D, Q to Grand Street
|11:30pm-1:00am||After-party at Fontana’s (105 Eldridge St. @ Grand)|
China Heavyweight (Yung Chang | 89 min.)
The latest film from award winning director Yung Chang (Up the Yangtze) is more than a sports documentary, it is an allegory for modern China. Boxing, once banned as being too western, is now embraced and encouraged, a fitting parallel for changing China itself.
The film follows Coach Qi Moxiang and two of his students in an intimate portrait of a man charged with training and guiding young people but who—long past his championship days—harbors hopes of entering the ring again. His young students endure rigorous, physically demanding training and as graduation approaches inner conflicts arise. They have been trained to be winners, to beat the other guy, to be number one—western ideas, but here done for the good of the country, not personal gain. Yet through boxing they see another world, with choices beyond peasant farming.
The relationships are touching—coach Moxiang, funny and gentle, trains these young people in boxing and in life, though he is conflicted about the path he chose, the sacrifices he made, and the options these kids have. Beautifully shot with a quiet pace, the film’s heavier scenes are interwoven with lighter moments—the boys acting like typical teenagers checking out a girl, coach getting drunk with friends who tease him about not having settled down.
Contradictions abound in China and with these boxers: community vs. individuality; sacrifice vs. personal gain. Their struggles are universal: to find themselves and express their individuality. Yet their stories are particular, as there is a heightened sense of urgency and poignancy in their choices when the country they represent is also struggling to find its way.
- Genevieve DeLaurier