Saturday, December 4, 2021

Zero to Hero

 It seems like a sports movie, except it is about a Paralympic athlete and set in Hong Kong.  It is also about a mother's role in bringing a handicapped baby into a Paralympic champion.  Available on Netflix.

At first the challenge is to accept a baby that was supposed never to walk and likely to be deaf.  So Wa Wai's mother was strong willed and spent many hours encouraging him to walk.  They found a hearing device.  She heard about Paralympics and came across a coach.  Once walking, So Wa Wai loved to run and the coach and his sister were able to get him going.  He was seen as the fourth runner for a relay team (to replace the coach himself).  

They are entered in the 1996 Atlanta ParaOlympics with a squabble.  The traditionally fastest runner had always run the anchor leg, but the coach determined that So Wa Wai with his uneven stride would do better on the straight way and thus give the team a better chance of winning.  This is based on a true story, but it was well dramatized in the sports movie tradition with So Wa Wai getting the baton behind several runners, but pulling up to a photo finish victory.  That was Hong Kong's first Paralympic gold medal.  The film is about half over and I thought this was the climax. 

To maintain his training the mother had taken on other jobs.  She had another son (after the doctor assured them their son's condition was not hereditary).  China had a one child rule but I guess not applied to Hong Kong or they were exempted.   Over time the other son helped with the older brother in his training and the many tasks that were difficult for a handicapped boy.  After Sun Wa Wai had won a few more gold medals the younger son exploded in his anger that he had only been born to serve his handicapped brother and there did seem to be truth to his anger.  Reminds me of "It is Okay Not to be Okay" (2020) where the mother deliberately had another child to take care of the first who had been born autistic.  Both sons were upset over how their parents treated them. 

Money was very tight and the main cause was the training time needed for a Paralympian.  Then the mother was approached by a sports promoter who wanted So Wa Wai to do some ads.  At first it was resisted, then they got involved for awhile, but it interfered with the training.  Dropped the ad effort, but came back to it as the mother realized after he was finished running at the Paralympics he would have nothing to do and basically be close to unemployable.  Went into again and this time So Wa Wai resented being told to stutter so he would seem more handicapped.   In Canada we were able to watch numerous Paralympians doing commericals.

His time off training had to be made up and it was agonizing as he was behind in his times from the Atlanta games.  His mother was his motivator when he wanted to give up  The coach's sister had attended much of the practices over the years and even clipped his toenails.  The mother, seeing her son's shyness and his limited future prospects suggested that the coach's sister should be his girlfriend, but she responded that he was not her "dream man."  Very embarrassing.

It is not much of a spoiler to say the film ends on a high note with So Wa Wai re-setting his world record for the 200 meter run in category T-36 which apparently still stands.  In the credits you see the actual people including So Wa Wai, the coach parents and brother.  Decades ago China had declared they had no handicapped people, but when they campaigned for the Olympics they had to accept the Paralympics and not only did they do so, but made an effort to be competitive.

What makes an engaging film is the people behind it.  Here are some of them.

Chi-Man Wan was the director.  He started writing for movies and in 2006 and by 2010 directed one of his scripts and then moved on to direct another three movies.

Sandra Kwan Yue Ng, the producer has been a very popular star in Hong Kong cinema with well over 100 acting credits and at one time the highest grossing Hong Kong actress with national awards.  By 2014 she had started expanding into directing and producing.  She won best actress award for this film at the Chinese American Film Festival.

Music was provided by Day Tai and cinematography by Wan-Kai Tam

Chung-Hang Leung played So Wa Wai.  Required to run and display a range of emotions.  Believable.

Louis Cheung played the coach.

Curran Pang, the editor had 60 credits including "Infernal Affairs" (2002). 

Sports films belong with the more common ones of someone overcoming obstacles to have a more satisfying life.  "Zero to Hero" does a good job.

A documentary on the Paralympics explains a bit the purpose of the games:

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