Documentaries about Chinese young baseball players by Japanese director attract attention of filmmakers
Published: Aug 04, 2022 04:24 PM
Photo:screenshot of the documentary film Pursue

Photo:screenshot of the documentary film Pursue

 Following the rave reviews for 2020 sports documentary Touch Out, two documentary films about baseball were screened at the 2022 FIRST International Film Festival in Xining, Northwest China's Qinghai Province. One of the works is a new film from 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 nongovernmental public benefit project for poor children launched by Sun Lingfeng, former captain of the Chinese national baseball team. At the base, more than 20 boys from impoverished 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 larger world through baseball.

According to the Paper, when talking about his motivations for filming a documentary on baseball at the film festival, Takeuchi said that "baseball is a sport I have loved since childhood. When I first came to China, baseball 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. This 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 that he wanted to convey the charm of the sport to more Chinese audiences through his documentary.

The 2020 documentary covers the time these children got the chance to compete with children from other countries after flying to the US in 2018 as part of a sponsorship program to play at a U11 tournament. It currently has an 8.7/10 from more than 15,000 reviews on Chinese media review platform Douban.

Feng, a moviegoer living in Beijing, said she was deeply touched by the story. She told the Global Times that while the movie depicts the team's numerous setbacks, it is also full of hope as these  boys are still growing and their futures are full of possibility.

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

Another documentary also focusing on baseball, The Plateau Stones, was screened at the film festival. The work takes aim at young people of the Tibetan ethnic group playing baseball on the plateau, giving audiences the chance to become familiar with the sport and Tibetan youth chasing their dreams.

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

"A news report in 2015 led me into the world of these children living on the plateau. I did not expect that filming would last for seven years, during which we overcame many difficulties such as harsh environmental conditions, language barriers, the pandemic and funding. But the charm and tenacity of these children made me push myself. Seeing the life-changing and positive things baseball has done for these kids, I think that's why I'm holding on," Wang said, according to a report from the Paper.