FFF 2015 Day 9 Top Spin

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Dynamic, Action Packed Family Film About Ping Pong

Dynamic, Action Packed Family Film About Ping Pong

This was a very well crafted, extremely entertaining documentary about teenage table tennis prodigies attempting to make the 2012 American Olympic team. The film follows its subjects from international competitions to Olympic trials and finally on to the Olympics in London. At the same time, it educates the audience about the sport of table tennis particularly regarding honing various techniques and strategies necessary to win.

The audience is sucked into the action, rooting for the three American teenagers who are attempting to defy the odds and win the first American medal in this sport–a sport that did not come to the Olympics until 1988. China has been the dominating champions having won 21 of 24 possible gold medals since the sports introduction into the Olympics.

America does not have much infrastructure or support for the sport of table tennis and that makes it very difficult for the athletes to find challenging competition, competent guidance and financial resources. In some ways it ironically parallels the difficulty young filmmakers face when trying to make documentaries as there is not much support for those who make films like this. These filmmakers actually used two Kickstarter campaigns to raise $100,000 needed to complete the movie.

In the end, both the teenagers and the filmmakers find success, in one form or another. Best of all, this is very much a family film as we discovered during our interviews with the audience. If it does make it into wider release, don’t miss it. Invigorating and uplifting!

Filmmaker Q & A
Sara Newens, who co-directed Top Spin with Mina T. Son took questions from the audience after the showing.

Like many filmmakers these days, a lot of her financing came from Kickstarter. She notes that this is especially helpful for documentarians who are not trying to tackle social issues where organizations might be more willing to assist with funding.

Henry Maldonado pointed out that, despite the competitive nature of trying out for the Olympics, the kids in this film had supportive families who did not appear to push them too hard. Sara agreed.

At one point in the film, an old home movie emerged of one of the Ping Pong players showing off his big boy underpants with cartoon characters. I asked Sara how long it took him to forgive his parents for releasing that home movie. She said that Michael, the ping pong player, had a great sense of humor and actually enjoyed that part of the film.

Reactions From the Audience
Mrs. LanceAround and I noticed some very young film goers siting in the back of the theatre and we head over to interview them.

“My Godmother recommended it because she knows I love sports so I thought it would be a good movie to see; Maybe I could learn something new about the Olympics,” says young Aleksander, “Football is what I want to pursue in my life. I’m just starting. I play tackle. I used to play what you call Iron Man Football…Flag…where you don’t really have a position. From 1 to 10 I would rank this film an 8…or 9…8 and 1/2!”

His younger 7 year old sister, Sara, was not as impressed with the film. “Kinda good, kinda boring for me. It’s just watching it as a movie it’s not really what I would enjoy.” She then proudly holds up the sunglasses that she won from Henry Maldonado before the movie started. Mom gives us permission to use their names.

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