Young pugilist He Zongli gets put through his paces in the gym and receives the wisdom of his coach Qi Moxiang at a training camp for the National Men’s Boxing Championship in this extract from Yung Chang new feature documentary China Heavyweight. Working closely with a local crew, the Chinese-Canadian filmmaker traveled far into the Sichuan countryside to capture the daily routines of coach Qi and his teenage boxers. “The first time we met everyone I was struck by their philosophy of trying to change these rural countryside kids, to instil in them values that would help them in the future,” recalls Yung. “Coach Qi seemed to be almost a cliché of a boxing coach—someone who doesn’t make an income, but is so selfless and passionate for the idea of the sport that he’s dedicated his life to it.” Brought up by Chinese parents in Toronto’s rustic backwoods, the director saw movies as a way of escaping his upbringing, and of connecting with other people and their stories. Selected for the Sundance Film Festival in 2008, Yung’s first film Up The Yangtze told the poignant tale of a young girl taking a job on a Yangtze River cruise ship, set against the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. Currently the filmmaker is finishing up a third feature documentary, Fruit Hunters, following the lives of obsessive collectors searching for rare and exotic fruits all around the world. “It’s a celebration of diversity in the face of monoculture,” he says. – NOWNESS
We’re wondering if he chose this subject to feel a better connect with his roots or if he feels that this brings him further from his upbringing? What connect do you think he made with these athletes in this documentary and made him cover this sport in this country?