Volleyball legend Lang Ping's documentary to premiere in China

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, June 10, 2020
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A poster of "The Iron Hammer" [Picture courtesy of Olympic Channel]

A much-anticipated documentary film about China's volleyball legend Lang Ping was set to premiere on YouTube on June 7, but the plan has suddenly changed, and the film is now aiming for a China release first.

Lang's remarkable journey and inspiring life are depicted in "The Iron Hammer" by actress-director Joan Chen and produced by Olympic Channel and Mandalay Sports Media. The 99-minute documentary, part of the Olympic Channel's Five Rings Films documentary series, was once scheduled to premiere on YouTube on June 7 at the closing day of an online film festival -- "We Are One: A Global Film Festival."

The online film festival, which was organized by Tribeca Enterprises, streamed exclusively on YouTube for free and featured over 100 films co-curated by 21 renowned festivals, including Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Sundance, Toronto, and Tribeca. All funds raised by the festival will benefit the WHO's COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

However, the producers pulled out of the festival just before the film was about to release online and announced that there will be an alternative option for the new premiere arrangement soon.

Joan Chen, whose acting credits include the Academy Award-winning film "The Last Emperor" and TV series "Twin Peaks," wrote on her Weibo account: "The anticipation for the film is beyond imagination! 'The Iron Hammer' will miss the appointment tonight, but it will quickly create a Chinese-style world premiere!"

According to its producer, Jan Lee, since the news of the documentary came out in late May, the positive feedback has been overwhelming, which indicates the unparalleled influence and popularity of Lang Ping. Many people asked about how to watch the film besides the film festival. The feedback prompted the producers and distributors to reconsider their release plan.

"After discussions, we decided to premiere the film in China first. The Olympic Channel has never considered pleasing any particular audience of any country when putting a documentary out. But considering the huge population and enthusiasm of the Chinese audience, we need to make a change," said Lee.

The producer also revealed that they are working around the clock to make Chinese subtitles for the documentary, and to find a more convenient platform for Chinese audiences to access the film.

Joan Chen charts the inspiring life and career of Lang Ping, a fearless volleyball star who embarked on one of the most remarkable journeys in modern Chinese history. "The Iron Hammer," named after Lang's nickname, promises never before seen footage, personal interviews, and exciting volleyball matches.

Lang Ping, the most iconic Chinese volleyball player in history, along with her team members, won gold at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the 1982 World Championship, and the 1981 and 1985 World Cups. In 1995, she became the head coach of the Chinese national team and eventually guided the squad to a silver medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. 

After taking the job as head coach of the United States women's national volleyball team in 2005, she took the team to silver at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. But Lang returned as head coach of Team China in 2013, triumphantly winning the World Cup in Japan in 2015 as well as gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. With this victory, Lang became the first person in volleyball history to win gold at the Olympic Games as both a player and head coach.

For her personal honors, Lang claimed the MVP awards at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games, the 1982 World Championship, and the 1985 World Cup. As a coach, she was named FIVB Coach of the Year in 1996. She also won back-to-back World Cup titles in 2015 and 2019. She is considered a national hero in China.

"We hope our film can attract younger viewers who were born after the 1990s and 2000s to learn more about Lang Ping and China's volleyball development. We have a lot of preparation work to do, but it is worth our efforts to let Chinese audiences see it as soon as possible," Jan Lee said. 

Lang Ping's life story was also adapted into a much-anticipated sports blockbuster "Leap" directed by Peter Chan, who is best known for such movies as "Comrades: Almost a Love Story," "Perhaps Love," "The Warlords," and "American Dreams in China." Chinese actress Gong Li plays Lang Ping in "Leap." However, after "Leap" received loud applause at its premiere earlier this year in Beijing, the film has postponed its Spring Festival release nationwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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