AAFFN Film Review – Bruce Lee Played Badminton Too
AAFFN Review of BRUCE LEE PLAYED BADMINTON TOO By Indigo Willing
Film Synopsis: Awkward surburban teenager Nic Wooding wants to be the greatest badminton player in the world, much to the dismay of his demanding and prejudiced father.
Dir. Corrie Chen, Prod. Anna Kojevikov, Cin. Shelley Farthing-Dawe.
Australia has both a vibrant and tense relationship with ethnic and racial diversity. Films dealing with migrants for instance have focused on oddness (THEY’RE A WEIRD MOB), destitution (THE FINISHED PEOPLE) and high violence (ROMPER STOMPER). Chen’s filmography includes shorts that present a much more tender, intimate side of the migrant and Asian Australian experience (such as WONDER BOY about a school boy trying to fit in, and HAPPY COUNTRY focusing on the experience of a married young woman from China trying to fit into a new life in regional Australia). Such films touch on the embarrassment, loneliness and disappointment migrants and second-generation children can experience quietly and internally rather than in more overt anger, strife and tears. Such themes are by no means new to Asian Australian stories, but Chen has a skill for shedding light on the quiet, affectionate and ordinary ways such challenges are also sometimes overcome, if not forever, at least for the day or a precious moment. Whether an afternoon on a couch with a mum, or sitting looking at the sunset across a desert road, we feel a sense of reassurance that belonging can be anyone’s if you just hold on that little longer and value the things and people that really matter.
In BRUCE LEE PLAYED BADMINTON TOO (BLPBT) there is much humour and warmth in the way Chen focuses on similar themes of what it’s like to be an ‘outsider’, only she turns the tables by having a White Australian as the misfit in a competitive badminton scene where Asian Australians are portrayed as the ‘typical’ players. In its opening scene, the film presents to us a finely detailed and beautifully shot image of Nic Wooding, dressed in athletic clothes and ready for action. But Nic is no Aussie ‘chesty Bonds-style’ icon or Adonis with a tan, rippling muscles and chiselled features. Instead, we see an affectionate image of an awkward young, adult, male who is no hard body, and who has a range of hallmarks of being a classic ‘nerd’. This includes his being dressed in a daggy, ill fitting white sports uniform, with his big white underpants glaring through hilariously translucent super white shorts. The scene is set for us, the audience, to empathize with the kind of under dog who typically never gets the girl or the glory.
In following scenes we find him to be the ultimate under dog, a boy in the suburbs who dreams of playing badminton competitively, with parents who love him but have no faith in his potential. Nic is passionate about both Bruce Lee and badminton, and in the lead up to a competition, he reaches a point where he is unsure if he really ‘deserves’ to be accepted as having a connection to either. By the film’s conclusion, there is a gentle reminder in the message that, we all have the power to look past stereotypes, and to treat any search for belonging as an open page.
Chen’s casting is impeccable, including the lead Nathan Derrick, love interest Jenny Cheong, and veteran Asian Australian actor Ferdinand Hoang (who features in a brilliant and memorable scene with Michael Caine in THE QUIET AMERICAN). Jude Beaumont plays a sympathetic mum, and Christopher Bunworth, who along with Nathan Derrick gives one of the film’s stand out performances, gives us a stern but ultimately likeable father. All the performances are natural, memorable and touching, in an unforced and very life affirming way. The cinematography is top level in the hands of Shelley Farthing-Dawe and other crew, with a special mention of Sally Adinsall for production design. Nic’s home is classic Australiana and many people will recognize a bit of their own childhood or older relative’s homes in his.
Chen is undoubtedly one of the finest and most promising directors in Australia right now. She has won many awards for her short films and was runner up in the QANTAS Spirit of Youth (Film Category) in 2012 for this film. She also has range, with her other work including a documentary on suicide (SUICIDE AND ME) that has screened on the ABC, and a comedy that will be touring soon (BLOOMERS) and also an awareness campaign featuring Lawrence Leung (EMILY NEEDS STEM CELLS). Watch out for what she brings to the screens in 2014 and beyond.