Film review: Weeds on Fire – historic Hong Kong baseball team revived in coming-of-age drama

Hong Kong’s spirit of never say die comes through in this tale of a high-school team and pressures faced by the young players from humble backgrounds

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 August, 2016, 11:29am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 August, 2016, 11:28am

3.5 stars

The first released title from the government-run First Feature Film Initiative, Steve Chan Chi-fat’s Weeds on Fire is a big-hearted sports drama that excels as both an authentic coming-of-age story and an unlikely note of encouragement for the post-democracy set. Although it’s bookended by footage shot in Admiralty during 2014’s “umbrella movement”, the film’s poignant portrayal of adolescent regrets and its embodiment of Hong Kong’s never-give-up spirit will speak to viewers of any political leanings.

Based on the story of one of the city’s earliest youth baseball teams, the Shatin Martins, this 1980s-set film lives up to the presumed challenge of being Hong Kong’s answer to Kano , Wei Te-sheng’s 2014 film about a high-school baseball team competing in colonial-era Taiwan. And the genre tropes are just as prevalent here: from the dogged coach (Liu Kai-chi’s school principal) to the wayward troublemaker (Tony Wu Tsz-tung) and the unassuming hero (Lam Yiu-sing) who reflects on the episode 30 years later.

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While the exploits of the Martins – formed at a Band 5 school near a public housing estate – in a pan-Asian Little League tournament is heartening enough, Weeds on Fire leaves its most indelible impression as a cruel story of youth. The pressure on these underachievers to one day leave the “ghetto” spawns decisions that destroy friendships and change lives. There’s a field of dreams outside baseball, and they must learn the hard way to get there – but such is the case with everything worth fighting for.

Weeds on Fire opens on August 25

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