Last year, I reviewed a truly outstanding documentary called “9-Man” by filmmaker and friend of this blog, Ursula Liang. “9-Man” is an incredible exploration of the virtually unknown volleyball variant known as 9-Man, which has its roots in Toisan and which was popularized among Chinese Americans in the early twentieth century as a reaction to life in a forced bachelor society. 9-Man continues to be a streetball tradition in the Chinese American community, yet this fascinating and frenetic sport remained largely overlooked until Liang’s film. In my review last year, I described Liang’s documentary as complex and thought-provoking, and a vehicle for exploring many aspects of Asian American masculine identity today.
“9-Man” has won a bunch of awards during its time in the film festival circuit, including the Directors’ Choice award at the Seattle Asian American Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Boston Asian American Film Festival and the Grand Jury Award the Austin Asian American Film Festival. In my review, I wrote:
9-Man spotlights the uniquely Chinese-American sport of 9-man, an eighty-year old variant of volleyball popular in the southern Chinese city of Toisan and surrounding region as well as in Chinatowns throughout North America.
As a documentary, 9-Man is richly layered. Although a film about a virtually unknown sport with deep roots in Chinese American history runs the risk of being unwatchably dry, 9-Man is instead a surprisingly funny, sharp and nuanced conversation about contemporary Asian Americana.
To be honest, I actually loved this documentary so much I viewed it twice (in two different cities!) during its film festival tours: once to write my review at BAAFF, and again to introduce some friends to it when it was showing in New York City. Everyone who has seen it has loved this film, and many have asked when and how it will be available to a broader audience.