Japanese director’s documentaries about young Chinese baseball players attract filmmakers’ attention

Photo: screenshot from the documentary film Pursue

Following rave reviews for the 2020 Touch Out sports documentary, two baseball documentaries were screened at the 2022 FIRST International Film Festival in Xining, northwest China’s Qinghai Province. One of the works is a new film by Japanese director Ryo Takeuchi.

Takeuchi’s new documentary film, Pursue, continues to focus on the same subject covered in Touch Out, a baseball training base in Beijing called Power Baseball. The base is a non-governmental public benefit project for poor children started by Sun Lingfeng, former captain of the Chinese national baseball team. Basically, more than 20 boys from poor families live and train together.

In the Japanese director’s work, the teenagers who appeared in the 2020 film have grown up, and Sun is still trying to give these boys from poor families access to a bigger world through baseball.

According to the newspaper, when talking about his motivations for shooting a baseball documentary at the film festival, Takeuchi said, “Baseball is a sport I’ve loved since childhood. When I arrived in China, baseball didn’t t was not as popular as it was in Japan and there were few opportunities to play the sport. But in recent years, baseball has become more popular in China, with more people playing the game. led me to the idea of ​​documenting the growth of baseball from a niche to a universal sport, to witness the development of the game in China.”

The director said he wanted to convey the charm of the sport to more Chinese audiences through his documentary.

The 2020 documentary covers the moment these children had the chance to compete against children from other countries after flying to the United States in 2018 under a sponsorship program to play in an U11 tournament . It currently has a rating of 8.7/10 from over 15,000 reviews on Chinese media review platform Douban.

Feng, a film buff living in Beijing, said she was deeply touched by the story. She told the Global Times that while the film depicts the team’s many setbacks, it is also hopeful as these boys are still growing and their future is full of possibilities.

She added that she was happy to watch the boys’ follow-up stories in the new documentary, which is available on Chinese video-sharing platform Bilibili.

Another baseball-themed documentary, The Plateau Stones, screened at the film festival. The artwork targets ethnic Tibetan youth playing baseball on set, giving audiences the opportunity to learn about the sport and Tibetan youth chasing their dreams.

Director Wang Lu shared his experience shooting the film over the past seven years.

“A report in 2015 drew me into the universe of these children living on the set. I did not expect the filming to last seven years, during which we overcame many difficulties such as the difficult environmental conditions , language barriers, the pandemic and funding. . But the charm and tenacity of these children pushed me to surpass myself. Seeing the positive and life-changing things of these children, I think it’s why am I hanging on,” Wang said, according to a report by The Paper. .

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