Directed by Ursula Liang
Audience Award (Documentary), 2014 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
9-Man is a sport like no other. Sprouting from the Chinatown concrete and spreading across the continent is all-American jungle ball: volleyball with more bodies and more bruises, more slams and more swagger. Also unavoidable: that this is a sport of Chinese American men. Unimaginable: that outside of the Chinatown circuit, the sport has been under the radar of the mainstream, and until Ursula Liang’s new documentary 9-MAN, unknown even among many Asian Americans.
Liang is a former ESPN journalist and her excitement about the sport is undeniable. She follows several teams preparing for the big annual championship and does it with an eye for not just the David and Goliath dramatics, but also a sense of what makes the sport such a dynamic match of athleticism – a critical contribution in a nation where Asian American male bodies are generally decorporealized. Sports in the U.S. have long been racialized, but Liang writes a new history of American sport traversing familiar stories of inclusion and exclusion, but surprising us throughout, tracing the sport’s dubious history in China and locating it in the streets of New York, Boston, and throughout North America.
Refreshing and iconic, 9-MAN explores Chinese American culture as something not inherited or translated from a motherland, but something peculiar to enclave living and cross-generational identity formation. It’s also a blistering sports film that makes you root for favorite teams, and more importantly, an inspiring way of life. –Brian Hu