Ursula Liang, a journalist and AAJA, New York chapter member since 1998, invites the AAJA-Hawaii members to a screening of her film “9-Man,” which will be playing at the Hawaii International Film Festival.
“I’ve been a long-time member of AAJA and would love the support of the Hawaii chapter,” Liang said via email. “A number of AAJA Members helped with the production of the documentary. I’ll be at both screenings and would love to meet the chapter members in person.”
Liang has worked for ESPN The Magazine, T: The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Op-Docs, a show on ESPN radio, ethnic news media like Hyphen magazine and StirTV and TV shows like UFC Primetime and UFC Countdown.
When asked to explain the film, she said:
Since the 1930’s, young Chinese men have played nine-man, a gritty, competitive streetball game, in the alleys and parking lots of Chinatown. When the community was a Bachelor Society (men outnumbered women 4-to-1) 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 for 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. But it’s still played in isolation. 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.
“9-Man” introduces the history of the game and a diverse cast of modern-day characters — from 6’7″ Olympian Kevin Wong to a 91-year-old pioneer — combining direct cinema and interviews with never before seen archival footage and photos sourced directly from the community. Pivoting between oil-spotted Chinatown parking lots and jellyfish-filled banquet scenes, the film captures the spirit of nine-man as players not only battle for a championship but fight to preserve a sport that holds so much history.
“I made this film, because it’s an important part of Chinese-American history that has never been documented,” she said. “When I started looking into the game, I realized that the pioneers of nine-man were in their 80’s and 90’s and their stories would soon be lost if I didn’t make this film.”
Its Hawaii premiere is on Saturday, Nov. 1 at 5:45 p.m. at Dole Cannery Stadium 18. A second screening is on Wednesday, Nov. 5 at 5:30 p.m. at Dole Cannery. More information can be found at HIFF’s website.