chapter  6
32 Pages

The sports film, national culture and identity

The previous chapters examined primarily films that emerged from the United States, given the dominance of that country on world film production and distribution and its formative influence on the development of the sports film genre. Yet from Asia to Australia and Africa, Europe to South America, sport has featured prominently throughout world cinema. The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) lists 71 countries other than the United States that have produced sports films, with over 170 United Kingdom productions alone to date. The sports film also has a long history internationally; one of the most commercially successful Chinese silent films of the 1930s was Ti yu huang hou (Queen of Sports) (1934) which foregrounded a strong female lead protagonist as an athlete at a time when women rarely featured in such roles in the West. Directed by the seminal Chinese filmmaker Sun Yu, the film concerns an aspiring sprinter from a Chinese village, Lin Ying (Li Lili), who goes to Shanghai to study at a women’s sports college, eventually achieving recognition as a leading athlete. However, she is tempted by the social pleasures that fame brings, attractions that eventually lead her to neglect her training. As Zhen Zhang has observed,

Lin learns a big lesson at the National Trials for the Far East Games (Yuandong yuxuan dahui): that the true spirit of sports lies in collective effort, not individual glamour. The didactic message about the need to harness the individual body – in particular, the female body – for nation building is not to be missed.