Documenting Marbury in China

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A program about two-time NBA All-Star Stephon Marbury, who has adjusted well to life in China after moving here in 2010, will be the first of 14 nonfiction documentaries from the Vibrant China series.

Stephon Marbury reacted after his debut with Foshan. The all-Chinese Bayi Fubang spoiled the day by winning 92-83 in a first-round match of the 2010-2011 season of the Chinese Basketball Association league (CBA). [CFP]

The New Life of the Lone Wolf episode about Marbury captures the series' spirit, which focuses on China's contemporary pulse.

The series is produced by Five Star Legend Corp.

"The idea of putting the spotlight on Marbury is driven by our desire to stand out from other companies that pitched programs to CCTV-9, the documentary channel," Five Star Legend's producer Gu Hui explains.

It gave the company a competitive edge when it made its pitches to CCTV-9, when the channel invited bids for documentaries about interesting people, places and trends that show modern China's realities, Gu says.

"We needed something different to ensure a spot in the bidding," Gu says.

So, the company decided to focus on a foreigner, she explains. Marbury immediately came to mind because of his fan base in the country.

"Marbury is a perfect choice," Gu says.

"His popularity in China rivals 'Linsanity' in the United States. He's very easy to approach and was immediately willing to cooperate when we revealed our plan."

The director and editor didn't know much about the basketball star or his sport and stayed up many nights doing research, Gu says.

The production team also interviewed many people close to the former Knicks guard, including his coach and teammates from the Chinese Basketball Association's Beijing Ducks team.

The documentary begins with clips from a match between the Beijing Ducks and Xinjiang Flying Tigers last December.

"Marbury's Beijing team had never defeated the Xinjiang rival, and it was the first time Marbury met Kenyon Martin," Gu says, referring to the 2010 NBA draft's No 1 overall pick.

"So it was a game of suspense and makes an intriguing start of the show."

But Gu says the program isn't entirely about the game or even Marbury but rather uses him as a foreign character through which Beijing can be revealed to audiences.

Scenes show him relishing Chinese food, riding the subway and performing cross-talk with a famous comedian.

The documentary also captured cultural differences. One scene recorded the Beijing team's bosses visiting the players before a critical match. "The team members lined up to listen to the long speeches," Gu says.

"As the translator tried to explain what the bosses were saying, Marbury said he didn't need to understand it and knew what was going on."

Translation and coordination ensured there weren't any major obstacles in communicating with the former NBA star, Gu says.

"The only hard part was shooting the game, because following the rhythm requires tech savvy from the camera operators."

CCTV-9's director Liu Wen says issuing a call for bids for Vibrant China marks "an exploration of new perspectives to make documentaries".

Liu believes it was a good idea to present some aspects of the country through a foreigner's eyes.

Vibrant China premiered on March 7 will be broadcast until March 18.

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