Monday, December 08, 2008

[Asian Festival of 1st Films] Attitude (態度)

Blackie Chen's documentary on the Taiwanese SBL (Super Basketball League) basketball team Taiwan Beer, of which he is one of the stakeholders, tells of the typical ups and downs faced by a championship winning side. It was almost a goner in 2003, but they managed to pull through the seasons, and in 2006, was a whisker away from becoming champs if not for that field goal in the last second of the match. Yes, sports is cruel, but that's what makes it compelling for the fans, especially in nail-biting photo finishes to the top.

As a documentary chronicling a side, the obvious difficulty would of course be the content. It is easy to decide to want to follow the team match in and match out, but realistically, you're in the hands of Fate because you never know just how the team would perform, in order for you to either have a fairy tale ending, or one which fizzles out midway through the season. Like James Leong and Lynn Lee's Homeless FC approach, this is more than just about the game, but the lives of the players behind the scenes, as well as the thematic elements of courage, team work, bonding and friendship, values that anyone can identify with.

The title is very apt, and I guess it applies not only to sports, but to daily life as well. With the right approach and attitude, I guess there's nothing impossible. It's more than a war cry, but a principle to put in the best, no matter whether you're dealt a bad hand, or when the chips are down. Like a precursor and a warning, the Taiwan Beer team got handed a reminder during their pre-season tour of Japan, that there is absolutely no room for arrogance, that any let up will lead them to be severely punished by the opposition.

Told in chapters and sometimes with MTV styled quick cuts, the documentary takes turn to put the different players under the spotlight, based on the specific topic the chapter is touching upon. Like how injury is any sports figure's greatest fear, given the chance of ending one's career. Or how they come together and bond with each other, from the youngest power guard player in the team, right down to the team captain Hao Dai. It drums in the fact that a team without team work, relying on a few star players, is never as strong as a team that gels together, and capitalizes on one another's strengths.

And it's not just all seriousness here, given that there were a lot more hilarious episodes within that demonstrates that this was a band of brothers, who work hard both on the field and off it, and there are a number of jokers around to keep the mood light hearted, given their crazy antics, and one really funny incident involving a broken hoop in the only practice court they have. The documentary also balances fun and games, with the notion of taking one's opportunities and living life to the fullest, through the eyes of one of their fans who became cancer stricken, who also epitomizes the titular spirit within him in his battle against illness. Though I felt that this portion was a little jarring in having to take the focus off the team, I thought it probably had to be included given the team's closeness to this fan.

As mentioned earlier, this is a documentary that you just cannot script and have very little control over the outcome which is incredibly hard to predict. It's going with the flow, and I guess somehow the values that it hoped to impart, got rubbed off onto the filmmakers as well in coming up with something that's entertaining as well as inspirational, a reminder of the combination of values required for any success, in any field.

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