China Heavyweight, written and directed by Yung Chang, had its Canadian Premiere at Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival. The film follows young boxing hopefuls, Miao Yunfei and He Zongli who Chang’s crew discovered from a school in Huili County, Sichuan Province, that has produced 200 champions in 20 years. But what better way to explain to you what the documentary is about than to have Chang introduce it to you.
In my interview with Chang, he explained how the sport of boxing can tell a much bigger story. “Boxing is defined by its individuality. China is a country undergoing rapid development…there is a correlation between the two identities”, Chang explains. In the film, the boxers clash with the Chinese culture. They’re becoming more individualistic. It’s mirroring what is going on in the country itself. At the same time, coach Qi embodies respect, perseverance and honour; virtues much appreciated in China.
Through the film we notice how the top student boxers face dramatic choices as they graduate – should they fight for the collective good as amateurs, or for themselves and their own personal gain as professionals? It certainly a metaphor for the choices that everyone faces now, in the New China.
Chang discussed a little bit about how language can also add to the commentary of the film. As you heard in the clip, the English and Chinese titles are different. In Chinese, it is “beautiful and poetic”. Both titles work well in each cultural context.
All in all, China Heavyweight is filled with intimate moments between Coach Qi and his students. There are also intimate moments within families. We see the breakdown in family dynamics as well. Irrespective of culture, these are stories and themes that we can all relate to.