A film by Yung Chang
CANADIAN PREMIERE AT HOT DOCS
RT: 89 mins.
In Chinese/Sichuanese/English, with English subtitles.
Hot Docs Screening Schedule:
Bloor May 2, 2012 9:00pm
TBLB 2 May 3, 2012 2:00pm
Fox May 4, 2012 9:30pm
“I chose to tell this story not only because the subject was boxing, but the story was about respect, honor, and perseverance – virtues at their greatest test in a changing China.” … director Yung Chang
In central China, a Master coach recruits poor rural teenagers and turns them into Western-style boxing champions. Through hard work and discipline, these boys and girls come of age, trained in the art of boxing and the game of life.
China Heavyweight, written and directed by Yung Chang (Up The Yangtze), makes its Canadian Premiere at Hot Docs May 2, 2012, at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. Two other screenings will be held, Tiff Bell Lightbox 2 on May 3 at 2pm and at the Fox Theatre on May 4 at 9:30pm.
These young teens arrive with Olympic dreams, hoping to become China’s next amateur heroes.
But the pull of professionalism also weighs upon their shoulders. Their coach Qi Moxiang, hopes to make a storied comeback in a final pro fight, to show them the way. 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’s a metaphor for the choices that everyone faces now, in the New China.
“From Up the Yangtze,” says director Yung Chang, “I learned that your subject doesn’t have to say much in order to have depth; I like the story in unspoken silences.”
Chang’s crew discovered a hot bed of boxing going on in Southern Sichuan Province, specifically a school in Huili County that had produced 200 champions in 20 years. With Miao Yunfei and He Zongli, the film follows these young boxing hopefuls, who are from different backgrounds. Miao’s family was quite successful as tobacco farmers and He Zongli’s family were poor subsistence farmers. Their personalities were polar opposites with Miao outgoing and Zongli quiet and introverted, and these traits translated to their fighting personas.
“I’ve created China Heavyweight into more of a human drama than a ‘message’ documentary,” says Chang. “We use the genre of boxing to tell a bigger story. Embedded within the drama unfolding between the two students and the coach, is a commentary on modern China. In China, you fight for your country; but with boxing, the bottom line is that you’re fighting for yourself. This story becomes a metaphor for nationalism vs. individualism. But at the heart of the film, it’s really about the relationship between Coach Qi and his students. It’s enough to walk-away with a greater sense of honor, about the role of mentors and teachers, and about perseverance.”
Internationally award-winning filmmaker, Chang, made his first feature documentary, Up The Yangtze in 2007. The film used China’s highly contested Three Gorges Dam as a dramatic backdrop for a moving and richly detailed narrative of a peasant family negotiating unprecedented historic changes. Up The Yangtze played at numerous festivals, including Sundance, and was one of the top-grossing documentary box office releases in 2008. China Heavyweight, Chang’s sophomore film, is an intense and intimately observed narrative documentary; following the lives of a boxing coach and his two fighters in rural China. The film uses the burgeoning sport of Western-style boxing to explore social change in China. It had its world premiere at Sundance 2012. He is currently in production on The Fruit Hunters, a feature documentary about nature, commerce and obsession in the fruit underworld, slated for a fall 2012 release. He is also writing Eggplant, a feature fiction, about a Taiwanese wedding photographer in China.
QI MOXIANG, COACH
Born in 1977, Qi Moxiang has started amateur boxing training since he was 11. Qi was recruited to Sichuan Provincial Team in 1991, and then placed on the National Team in 1998. He was the 54G Runner-up of the 1999 National Championship. After resigning from the National Team in 2004, he turned to professional boxing and became China’s very first professional boxer. He still ranks WBC Asian Pacific top 5 (8-6-2, 5KOs). Qi has been coaching the Huili Boxing Team for free since 2004 and trained more than 2 dozens of provincial amateur boxing champions.
ZHAO ZHONG, MASTER
Zhao Zhong was a weight-lifting athlete at Sichuan Provincial Team from 1982 to 1985. After resigning from the team, he worked for Huili Sports Bureau. After China lifted the ban on boxing in 1986, he was among the first group to be trained as boxing coaches. Zhao Zhong is the coach of Qi Moxiang and the founder of Huili Boxing Team.
MIAO YUNFEI, STUDENT BOXER
Born in 1992, Miao Yunfei started training with Qi Moxiang in 2004. Yunfei won the 60K runner-up, 64K champion and 69K champion in 2008, 2009 and 2010 Sichuan Provincial Youth Championships.
HE ZONGLI, STUDENT BOXER
Born in 1992, He Zongli started training with Qi Moxiang in 2004. Zongli won the 48K champion, 51K champion and third place of 2008, 2009 and 2010 Sichuan Provincial Youth Championships. He is now an officially registered boxer in Sichuan Provincial Team.
Director Yung Chang – Award highlights:
Emmy Nomination, Best Cinematography (Up The Yangtze)
Best Documentary, Canadian Genie Award (Up The Yangtze)
Best Debut Feature and Audience Choice Award, Cinema Eye Awards (Up The Yangtze)
Independent Spirit Award Nominee (Up The Yangtze)
Best Documentary, Taiwan Golden Horse Award (Up The Yangtze)
Canada’s Top 10, Toronto International Flim Festival Group (Up The Yangtze)
Golden Gate Award for Best Documentary Feature, San Francisco International Film Festival (Up The Yangtze)
Don Haig Award, Hot Docs
Yolande and Pierre Perrault Award, Rendez-vous du cinema québecois
Charles E. Guggenheim Emerging Artist Award, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
Best Canadian Documentary, Vancouver International Film Festival (Up The Yangtze)
LIXIN FAN (Executive Producer)
DANIEL CROSS (Executive Producer)
YI HAN (Producer / Production Supervisor)
ZHAO QI (Producer)
PETER WINTONICK (Producer)
OLIVER ALARY (Composer)
SUN SHAOGUANG (Cinematographer)
HANNELE HALM (Editor)
FAN LIMING (Sound Recordist)
About EYE STEEL FILM
For over a decade, Montreal’s award-winning EyeSteelFilm has made an international impact with social issue documentaries such as “Rip! A Remix Manifesto”, “Antoine, Inside Lara Roxx; Fortunate Son” and “Taqwacore: the birth of Punk Islam”, as well as a series of films chronicling modern life in China (“Up the Yangtze”; “Last Train Home”; “Bone”; “Chairman George” and most recently, “China Heavyweight”). EyeSteelFilm began by making films with Montreal’s homeless community: Daniel Cross’s gritty street trilogy “Danny Boy”; “The Street: a film with the homeless”; and “S.P.I.T.: Squeegee Punks in Traffic”, about a street punk named Roach—who himself became a filmmaker with EyeSteelFilm and directed 3 documentaries of his own.
EyeSteelFilm has worked with broadcasters and funders from all over the world and been named for the past three consecutive years to Realscreen magazine’s “Global 100” list.
China Heavyweight is distributed in Canada by KINOSMITH INC., an independent Canadian film distribution & marketing company founded in February 2007 by distribution veteran Robin Smith. With a mandate to bring critically-acclaimed Canadian and international films to audiences across the country, the company has distributed over 150 feature films in the last five years as well as provided marketing advice to completed films and productions in development. Upcoming theatrical releases include, THE GUANTANAMO TRAP, CHINA HEAVYWEIGHT, REPLICAS featuring Selma Blair, GIRL MODEL, SOUND IT OUT, HOW TO MAKE A BOOK BY STEIDL and THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY.
About YUANFANG MEDIA, co-production company
Yuanfang Media (YFM) was founded by a group of Chinese filmmakers in Beijing to develop and produce socially-responsible film, TV, and digital content. Dedicated to creativity and independent expression, our mandate is to use the power of film to bring social and cultural changes to communities in China and beyond. Our expertise includes feature-length, television and short form documentaries production; cross-platform media promotion; and strategic partnership development.
YFM productions have and continue to impact audiences in China and around the world. They include: “Last Train Home”; “Fallen City”, an ITVS, Jan Vrijman and Sundance-supported documentary that follows the survivors of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake (post-production); “Pingping and An’an” a 60-min documentary about the first twin pandas born after 2008 Sichuan earthquake, co-produced with Sichuan Provincial TV Station; “In the Key of David Lai” about a young, blind piano prodigy, accepted at 2011IDFA pitching forum.
About CNEX, executive producers
CNEX is the short form of “Chinese Next” and “See Next”. It is a non-profit foundation devoted to the production and promotion of documentaries of the Chinese people. CNEX strives to facilitate cultural exchange between Chinese and the rest of the world through supporting documentaries depicting contemporary Chinese – people of Chinese ethnicity, their living and their society. CNEX aspires to become a platform supporting Chinese documentary filmmakers to enhance a sustainable strategy for the contemporary Chinese documentary making. CNEX aims to establish and develop a library of global Chinese non-fiction works to preserve visuals and cultures of Chinese communities, especially in a time of unprecedented and rapid changes happening in this ancient culture.
This production has been made realized with ZDF in co-operation with ARTE Commissioning Editor, Sabine Bubeck-Paaz. Produced in association with NHK Commissioning Editor, Ken-ichi Imamura, and CHANNEL 4 Commissioning Editor Anna Miralis. Produced in association with THE MOVIE NETWORK, an Astral Media Network Commissioning Editor Kathleen Meek. Produced in association with YLE Commissioning editor Iikka Vehkalahti, Mette Hoffmann Meyer. Produced with the collaboration of TV5 Quebec, Canada, www.TV5.ca, Head of Original Productions and Acquisitions Nathalie D’Souza, Director of Programming Pierre Gang. Superivsed by China Film Co-production Company.