(2006). Now on DVD. 103 minutes, English subtitles.
Last night I took in the opening reception for the 2nd Annual Taiwanese Film Festival, now running at the Vancouver International Film Center. The festival opener was a warmly engaging feature length documentary entitled MY FOOTBALL SUMMER. It's a doc I had not heard of, but which I am grateful to have seen. The film offers us a privileged window into the energetic lives of a group of young friends, the football team at Mei-Lun Junior High School in Haulien County. But it's more than just another sport documentary. These boys are from impoverished families living in the mountainous east coast, some of them aboriginal. MeiLun is a boarding school with a devoted staff, who adore their team, and who understand the emotional struggles of youngsters facing a limited future. Onscreen we witness the boys bravely facing up to the challenges of a modern education, but their school also offers a brief glorious life on the soccer field. They are proud of their scars and broken bones, awards they will treasure as adults, though perhaps consigned to careers as "professional weed pullers". The Mei-Lun team becomes their everything, their "Heaven", and it's a very compelling story.
I think it was very astute choice of the TWFF committee to lead with MY FOOTBALL SUMMER. It's a great audience pleaser and we are told that in 2006 the film out grossed several prominent feature films in Taiwan. That's a rather remarkable accomplishment for a "local" documentary about a Junior High School soccer team. (I had a chance to chat with Kai Ling Xue, a young Vancouver film maker who told me she is from Haulien, the setting for this film.) There was some great news for the TWFF committee. Spokesmen for China Airlines and the Taipei Economic Office, the anchor sponsors, informed the audience that the festival will enjoy their continued patronage.