Monday, June 6, 2011

A Gymnastics Movie and A Better Documentary

The gymnastics movie Jump! Ashin , starred Eddie Peng, is expected to release in Taiwan and mainland China in August. The Storyline of the movie:
Ashin grows up in a small town at Yilan. He joins the school gymnastic team at an early age. In order to become a national player, he never gives in to hard trainings. However, Ashin gradually loses his way in rebel time. He gives up gymnastics and joins the gang with his best friend, Pickle…
From the plot summary, this movie sounds like the Peaceful Warrior (minus Zen) + gangster. Actually one of the photos shows how Ashin used his high bar skill in gang fight(/rolling eyes). Here is one of the making-of vid. The movie has been creating a lot of buzz, and is anticipated to be a big hit for this summer. Fans sing praise of Peng, the actor, for the effort he put into playing gymnast, and comment that gymnastics is possibly the hardest sport. I hate the fact that general public marvel at the hardship involved in the gymnastics training after seeing an actor attempt some half-ass A-valued gymnastics elements in front of camera. (Usually I am capable of appreciating an actor working his butt off pretending to be a gymnast though. I “blame” my cynicism partially on all the MIOBI recap reading. BTW, if you haven’t read it yet, please do check it out. It is just toooo good. I guess the love-hate feeling towards those gym-theme movies and shows are universally shared by gymfans, wherever they are made. We know the REAL THING is a thousand times better than any of those show or movies. But as Spanny put it, “If this is all we can get, I'll take it. And I'll like it.”)

This movie is based on true events. The title character Ashin (Lin Yu-hsin) is director Lin Yu-hsien‘s older brother. Gymnast Yu-hsin had competed in major regional and international competitions representing Taiwan for over a decade since the 1990s, and is Asian Games gold medalist. During an interview, the director mentioned that he hopes to promote the sturdy and diligent spirit of gymnastics in the movie. Although having not seen the movie yet, I believe he actually has done a better job promoting gymnastics as a sport in his 2005 documentary “Jump! Boys”.

“Jump! Boys” is a Taiwanese documentary about of a group of boys who trained in gymnastics daily under Coach Lin Yu-hsin. The story is about seven boys-aged between six and nine years old- and then 33-year-old Coach Lin, and their intense training for an entire summer for an annual youth gymnastics competition. Some background on the documentary:
Director Lin visited his parents' home in Yilan during Lunar New Year. He saw that his older brother was training kids in gymnastics. Some of the boys were just six years old--so young that they ran home crying at the pain they experienced while training. Lin thought to himself that such hardship would surely keep these kids from ever coming back for more. To his surprise, the boys always showed up at the gym the following day. The indomitable spirit of these prepubescent boys touched Lin. He became consumed with discovering their secret: What kept these boys coming back, day after day?
The question wasn’t answered directly in the documentary; but was mentioned in one interview, and also by the movie actor Peng -“the failure is an option, giving up is not.”

The documentary’s storytelling is brilliant. As the director explained, the story unfolded like a scripted sport drama. At the end of the documentary, the competition result brought a sense of closure and accomplishment to those gymnasts’ story. But their athletic career didn’t just end there. In a follow up interview earlier this year, the gymnasts in the documentary were shown still training under coach Lin, with 3 left and 2 new teammates joined.The team is looking to participate in the 2014 Nanjing YOG, and hopes to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.


  1. I watched the documentary last night! Very interesting!! I was thinking it would be interesting if a documentary of a similar vein was done in China :). And tracing the child all the way into the national team or something.

  2. how can i get my hands on the documentary? searching the net proved useless (first time ever!), so i am doing something wrong.. any help? Please

  3. Valentin, did you try youtube ? I actually saw the documentary from the link. Give it another try. Good luck.

  4. AndromedaAiken, (First of all, loved all the vids you shot in 2010 Singapore YOG).

    There is one mini-documentary of a similar vein titled “My gymnastics dream”, about 3 gymnasts in Yingtan, Jiangxi Province. Unfortunately no English subtitle is provided there (if I am not mistaken, you are from Singapore. Hope you understand Chinese, and enjoy this documentary as well).

    Glad this is not one of those CCTV-made documentaries (they did produce some good documentaries too, but just sometimes the gymnasts were a little bit too nervous). A low-profile television actually did a better job prostrating what the raw gymnastics training are in today’s provincial level gymnastics program. Same hard training, same conditioning, but with a new generation of gymnasts (I use this term rather loosely, I am thinking of the girls born after 1995). I actually had the same question like the Jump boys director on what keep those young girls stick with the hard sports like gymnastics, epscially with more temptations and other options out there in nowadays China.
    During the interview, gymnast Yang Yu(the smallest one with the beautiful form on floor) mentioned one interesting episode. Her coach “threw her out” of the training facility during one training session as she failed certain skill, and all she could think and all she wanted was more training. I kinda got my answer there.

    We actually can see some subtle changes on the Chinese gymnasts between the new generation and the ones from 1990’s.

    I am glad to see the slightly acuter self-awareness of the today’s gymnasts. Also the dedication to gymnastics is more of from the love of the sport. I secretly hope either one of those change can help this generation overcome the Chinese Syndrome thingy…

  5. John, thank you so much! It was exhilarating being there!! I purposely sat in front of the beam because that was my favourite apparatus to shoot ;).

    I will check the video out, language isn't an issue - I understand Mandarin :). Yea, I think with so many options nowadays, it's getting increasingly difficult to maintain a system like China does in sports because they will not have enough talent continuing up to the elite level. That's why they're trying to start this Happy Gymnastics program thing which is club level gymnastics similar to the programs in most of the Western world and in developed Asian countries i.e. Singapore, Japan etc.

  6. I found these links for the whole documentry.
    ( it also comes with subtitles in Chinese i guess??)

    If anyone could make up subtitles that would be amazing.

    All you have to do is replace the current subs in the .srt file with the english translation. Could not take that long. You can open the SRT file in Word, or Notepad. While watching the movie just replace the subs in order so they are time synced. In any case enjoy the movie.