Fri, Sep 22, 2006 - Page 17 News List

`My Football Summer' gives and goes

Yang Li-chou tells the gripping story of a group of young Aboriginal football players in pursuit of a dream


My Football Summer takes a close look at the bittersweet adolescence of 17 Aboriginal soccer players.


After the box-office successes of Jump Boys (翻滾吧男孩) and Let It Be (無米樂) last year, now comes My Football Summer (奇蹟的夏天), a slickly produced film that meets the high-standard techniques of a commercial feature movie and dispenses with humble production values -- a trademark of local documentaries. The result is a lively, fast-paced documentary that tells the story of an international football championship team from Mei-lun Junior High School (美崙國中) in Hualien County (花蓮縣).

Commissioned by Nike to make a five-minute long commercial in time for the World Cup in June, veteran documentary filmmaker Yang Li-chou (楊力州) and talented film school student Chang Rong-ji (張榮吉) were inspired by the 17 young soccer players that appeared in the advert and decided to make a feature-length documentary that follows the final six months of the students’ junior high-school life, including a championship game.

Shot in bright, saturated colors, with animated angles and editing, tasteful compositions and accompanied by a sentimental score, the film successfully presents a dramatic narrative that leads viewers deep into lives of the Aboriginal youngsters who spend three years living, studying and playing football together as one big family. “I want to tell a story about youth. For a 37-year-old guy like me, youth becomes an intriguing topic,” Yang said.

“While Yang is more of a dignified figure on the set, I’m more like a big brother to the boys. They are themselves in front of the lens, making jokes and talking to me as if there is no camera between us,” Chang said.

Unlike Yang’s previous sober and sharp style, this film takes a warm look at the youngsters’ innocent friendships, carefree school-life, unrelenting practice and determination to win the championship match. Apart from the film’s humorous moments, the narration also reveals a darker, hidden side to the young players, some of whom come from broken homes and lived in poverty.

Film Notes

My Football Summer (奇蹟的夏天)

Directed by Yang Li-chou (楊力州) and Chang Rong-ji (張榮吉)

Taiwan Release: Today

Language: In Mandarin with Chinese and English subtitles

The film also touches on the high-schoolers’ possibly dim prospects as the accomplished players have access to only limited social resources and seem destined to become blue-collar workers, instead of following their dreams.

“I want to raise the question as to why the careers of Taiwan’s young athletes’ are likely to end at the age of 15 and what kind of future awaits them afterwards,” Yang said.

Making the film required establishing trust with the subjects before they were willing to drop their guard in front of the camera. “Then it is our responsibility to protect them,” Yang said. “For example, we took out bursts of explosive language ... . We have to think about our subjects and edit out the stuff that is likely to cause them regret in [the future].”

The film is the first locally produced documentary that aims to change the conventional view of documentary cinema as non-marketable and the stuff of art-house theaters. For Yang, the recent success of documentary movies does not equate to a change in attitudes of cinemagoers, but does demonstrate the power of the media to publicize a particular movie.

For the documentary movie industry to develop, filmmakers must eschew the existing filmmaking rationale, Yang argues.

“Taiwan’s documentary filmmakers are respected and supported because they are poor. The rough, low-tech look of their films is said to be proof of sincerity. My Football Summer aims to bring out another possibility, showing that documentaries are not a protected species and we [filmmakers] can live well and make documentaries at the same time,” Yang said.

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