ARTS / FILM
Chinese documentary focuses on teens who escape poverty through baseball
Published: Nov 29, 2020 05:38 PM

One poster of Touch Out Photo: Courtesy of iQIYI



A Chinese documentary evoked tears and laughter from the audience at its premiere on Friday in Beijing with its story of a group of Chinese teenagers from poor families who change their fortunes by playing baseball.

While Touch Out has not yet enjoyed a wide release, it won Best Documentary at the FIRST International Film Festival earlier in 2020 and earned an 8.8/10 on China's major media review platform Douban after its  premiere on Friday.

Some Chinese celebrities, including well-known actress Zhou Xun, have noted that they enjoyed the movie. 

"These children's stories always touch me deeply. They can also shine," she said at a public benefit activity on Thursday.

The film focuses on a non-governmental baseball training base in Beijing, called Power Baseball, where more than 20 boys from impoverished families live and train together. 

Two of these teenagers, Ma Hu and Liang Zhengshuang, are at the center of the story. Ma's mother fled from her home in a rural village in Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region after giving birth to himwhile his father left to earn money far away. So he was raised by his grandmother.

In a shabby brick house where they live, Ma's grandmother recalled with tears that she did not even have enough money to buy clothes for the boy. Liang's youth was very similar to Ma's.

Fortunately, the two were recruited by Power Baseball, a public benefit project for poor children launched by Sun Lingfeng, former captain of the Chinese national baseball team. 

These children's world expands beyond their village to other provinces around China and even other countries around the world. They train in Zhongshan, South China's Guangdong Province when the weather turns cold in Beijing and get a chance to compete with other teens after flying to the US as part of a sponsorship program.

They encounter problems in training and getting along with the other boys at the base, but they at least do not have to worry about food and clothing anymore. Their main concern quickly becomes how to improve their baseball skills and become professional players instead of where to find food or how to beat someone else in a street fight. 

Three teenagers from the base including Ma attended the premiere on Friday. Healthy and strong, they emphasized that they hope to become professional baseball players in the future.

The founder of the base said at the premiere that in addition to expanding the boys' team from 20 to 70 members, they are also recruiting members to build a girls' team at the base.

"We went to rural areas in Southwest China's Sichuan Province to find girls and then brought them to Beijing," Sun explained.

The documentary focuses on the growth of these teenagers, but some problems are also explored such as ensuring their basic education in Beijing, renovating the base and the difficulties encountered while trying to find an appropriate baseball training site in China.

Compared with soccer and basketball, baseball is still seen as a niche sport in China, which has caused troubles for finding funds to develop the base.

When visiting the baseball venues in the US, the young players were amazed by the money and love poured into the sport in the country. 

The movie is scheduled for wide release in the Chinese mainland on December 11.


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