I have been waiting for the moment to have the opportunity to see Ursula Liang’s award-winning documentary 9-Man on the big screen. This Saturday, November 15, 2014, 9-Man screens in the DOC NYC Festival at SVA Theater on 333 W 23rd Street (between 8th and 9th Aves) in New York at 2 P.M. Expected to Attend: Ursula Liang, editor Michelle Chang, in person Paul Chin and Patrick “2E” Chin.
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9-Man is an independent feature documentary about an isolated and exceptionally athletic Chinese-American sport that’s much more than a pastime. Since the 1930’s, young men have played this gritty, streetball game competitively in the streets, alleys and parking lots of Chinatown. When the community was a Bachelor Society (men outnumbered women by huge percentages) at a time when anti-Chinese sentiment and laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act forced Chinese restaurant workers and laundrymen to socialize exclusively amongst themselves, nine-man offered both escape and fraternity to men who were separated from their families in China and facing extreme discrimination and distrust. Today, some 80 years later, nine-man is a lasting connection to Chinatown for a community of men who know a different, more integrated America and it’s a game that has grown exponentially in athleticism. Nine-man punctuates each summer with a vibrant, aggressive, exhausting bragging-rights tournament that unites thousands of Chinese-Americans and maintains traditional rules and customs—sometimes to the malcontent of outsiders.
9-Man introduces the history of the game and spotlights a chorus of modern-day characters—from 6’7″ Olympian Kevin Wong to a 91-year-old pioneer—combining direct cinema footage and interviews with archival footage and photos sourced directly from the community. The film follows teams in four main cities through the summer as they prepare for the Labor Day championship in Boston. Pivoting between oil-spotted Chinatown parking lots, jellyfish-filled banquet scenes, sweat-drenched summer practices and intimate home scenes, the film captures the spirit of nine-man and Asian-American life as players not only battle for a trophy but struggle to preserve a faded tradition in the face of a society rife with change.
What the critics are saying:
“…a thoroughly enjoyable story, with endearing characters, [that explores] some really tough and sensitive race issues that most people wouldn’t dare touch.” -Malika Zouhali-Worrall, director, “Call Me Kuchu”
“…this film gutted me. I was at the edge of my seat, really WITH every character. Loving them, routing for them, on their journey.” -Ariel Schudson, Sinamatic Salve-ation
“9-Man is a surprisingly funny, sharp and nuanced conversation about contemporary Asian Americana. -Jenn Fang, Reappropriate
A note from filmmaker Ursula Liang
I have spent the last six years of my life working on a film called 9-Man. Your last chance to see it in the theaters in NYC is this Saturday, 2pm at the SVA Theater. It’s part of the festival, DOC NYC, which is a prestigious documentary showcase with all of the major industry players in attendance and probably all of the short-list Oscar nominees. 9-Man is my first film, and a humble little indie in a sea of blockbuster docs. I would love it if you would come out this weekend to support me.
It’s impossible to get anyone to commit to anything in this city, but I hope you will make the effort to see 9-Man in the theaters. It’s played incredibly well in the festival circuit. We’ve sold out many screenings and gotten standing ovations. An 8-year old boy left our screening in San Diego and said to his mom: “I’m proud to be Chinese-American.” The energy that has surfaced in the theaters has been amazing, and watching this on DVD on on TV (yes these are in our future!) won’t compare to seeing it in the theaters, being a part of an incredible community. We expect NY to be a raucous screening!
You’ll get a chance to meet players and legends and our incredible crew (some coming from out of town).
I worked incredibly hard to learn the craft of documentary and dig deep into this story. I racked up thousands of miles on the Chinatown busses, lugged heavy equipment across the country, sweat through countless 15-hour, 90-degree days–all you have to do is show up and watch!
Please join me this weekend and help spread the word. It would mean a lot to me!
URSULA LIANG (Director, Producer, Director of Photography) is a journalist who has told stories in a wide range of media. A former staff editor at T: The New York Times Style Magazine; and writer/reporter at ESPN The Magazine. Liang was a host of the radio program Asia Pacific Forum on WBAI, associate producer for the Emmy-nominated documentary, “Wo Ai Ni Mommy”, producer for the Emmy-nominated Asian American TV show “Stir”, and sports editor for the Asian-American magazine, Hyphen. She recently produced for Fuel’s “UFC Countdown”, FX’s “UFC Primetime” and the independent documentary “Fighting Foster”. Liang grew up in Newton, MA and lives in The Bronx, NY. Her brother played 9-Man.
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Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia starred as Carole Barbara in Lorey Hayes’ Power Play at the 2013 National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., with Pauletta Pearson Washington, Roscoe Orman, and made her jazz vocalist debut in Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz “LADY” at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York. She is profiled in Jade Magazine.
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