Yao: Issues of Sport, Nation, and Race
Jeffery Mingo | Homewood, IL USA | 08/09/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This was typical of a sports documentary. There are many shots of him on the court, sports talking heads analyzing him, and famous people providing comments (Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, even President Clinton!). Throughout, I wondered why this was in theaters, rather than on some ESPN channel. I think it's because of the length of the work.
So long for ideas that the East and West will never meet! Still, the same archetypes appeared. Yao played with emphasis on the group, rather than his own individuality. He protected aspects of his privacy, rather than scratching to gain attention.
For those who think he's hot (and I include myself in that), you get to see his chest thrice. He has a deep, virile voice, whether speaking in Mandarin, or attempting English. He has a scar on the back of one arm that no one very explains. You get to see that his parents are tall too. Most importantly, they are reserved and stoic just like he is. The point that stood out the most to me was when Kobe encouraged Yao to "get loose!" Culture isn't just reflected in accents and dress, but body language as well.
I thought too much focus was placed on Yao's American (read: white) interpreter. He is interviewed more than Yao. I think he was meant to make your typical sports fan (white, male, American-born) have someone with which to identify. Thus, the person most likely to see this documentary also saw a version of himself in the spotlight. Yes, this work emphasizes Eastern-Western unity. Still, why couldn't a Chinese-American person be Yao's interpreter? They never did mention what were the interpreter's qualifications over other individuals who could have done the job.
Yao seemed to be on an entirely African-American team, yet East-West was often read as white-yellow. Why couldn't it have been yellow-black, like in the "Rush Hour" series? Shaq makes a statement that upset some Chinese Americans. Admittedly, I couldn't find myself getting upset over it the way Fuzzy Zoeller's comments about Tiger Woods made me livid. Even Yao stated, "That's Shaq just being Shaq."
Many have stated that Americans see race while the rest of the world sees nation. This documentary supports that idea. Yao and the Chinese nationals interviewed here, always said "Chinese" this and that. On the other hand, all of the Americans, including Asian-Americans, said "Asian" this and that. The film only hints at this, but Yao's presence seems to have invigorated support and attendance of Asian Americans in/with NBA programs. The interpreter said, "Yao wants to advertise the sport, not race." However, was this again just meant to make the most likely viewer of this documentary comfortable?"
Mikey | Toronto, Canada | 05/03/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I watched this documentary in the theatres, and it was an "upper" that got your spirits up with suspenseful scenes like the footage of the Yao Ming/Shaq showdowns. The musical score made it very entertaining making this relaxing, easy viewing. It was inspiring to see such a young guy like Yao Ming to appear so mentally strong when confronted with so much media attention and other pressures coming from many directions."
One of the finest global sports documentaries on a pair of e
Michael L. Grifka | Menlo Park, CA | 02/09/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is no other sports documentary that so well integrates the journey of one man (Colin Pine) through the exploits of another (Yao Ming). This film manages to pull off the feat of portraying the first year of Yao Ming's NBA experience through the eyes, ears, and actions of his personal assistant and interpreter. The Year of Yao addresses such complex issues as globalization, US-China relations, and provides a behind-the-scenes peek into the daily rigors of an NBA player. Pine's narrative is candid and honest, and the viewer gains an appreciation for the pressure Yao contends with on a nightly basis. The documentary is fair, objective, and deserves credit for synthesizing the dynamic world of basketball with relevant cultural topics without becoming overly generalized or banal. In the end, this is a well edited, superbly narrated depiction of two strangers navigating the rookie waters of the world's most popular basketball league."