• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 8:22pm

Bangkok

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 January, 2012, 12:00am

Luke Cassady-Dorion looks like a man at peace as he sips his coffee between smiles.

Having moved to Bangkok in 2005, the puckish man with the Billy Idol hairdo - who says he needed a change of pace from his frenetic Silicon Valley lifestyle as a software developer - has been steadily ticking off his to-do list. Become fluent in Thai and throw in a smattering of Sanskrit for good measure? Check. Become a yoga master and build up a loyal coterie of followers for his popular classes? Check. Host a television travel programme (Farang Pok Pok) in Thai? Check. Set up a film production company and make a documentary about Thai cheerleaders? Check.

When The Cheer Ambassadors screens at the flood-delayed World Film Festival of Bangkok later this month, Cassady-Dorion hopes he will begin a new chapter in his life as a producer and maker of documentaries around Asia. The film recounts the true story of Bangkok University's 2009 cheerleading team, who against all odds become the first Thai team to compete in the International Cheer Union's World Cheerleading Championships in Florida and to be pipped only by the US squad.

It's a good-natured and heart-warming romp that tells the story mainly through the eyes of five members of the Thai team, as well as their diminutive but indefatigable leader, Toey. There are tears, cheers and tantrums as the squad face down insurmountable odds to do their country proud.

After winning the national finals in November 2008, the team still had to raise more than three million baht (HK$733,000) to fund their trip to Orlando. Fearing the effects of jet lag, they began living on Florida time, sleeping all day and training all night.

While the sport has been practised in the US since 1898, a huge surge of interest around the world began around a decade ago, when the film Bring It On and its sequels were splashed across movie screens worldwide.

Thai teams would gather around televisions in the wee hours to catch a glimpse of broadcasts on ESPN, and then feverishly copy and practise the daredevil, high-flying moves and precarious human pyramids.

Says Cassady-Dorion: 'You had these relatively slight Thai guys trying to copy the moves done by much bigger and more muscular athletes in the US. The guys at the base of the pyramids in particular have to be really strong. But it's all the more credit to the Bangkok University team that they were able to overcome these challenges and build up their strength enough to seriously compete.'

Cassady-Dorion says he and his team spent a year making the documentary, including shooting the team training in Bangkok, conducting endless hours of interviews, and following them to the US.

'If I had to pick one word to describe these kids, it would be 'dreamers',' he says.

'They are a group of young kids who had a dream to become world-class cheerleaders, and they put an enormous amount of hard work into making that dream come true. Their achievements are testament to the power of teamwork and the power of dreams.'

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