Saturday, 30 March 2013

Linsanity Redux

Jeremy Lin in Linsanity, a documentary about his rise to the NBA
I just watched another documentary, Linsanity, as part of the 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival.

When the program came out there was no description for it yet, but people filled the two screenings to watch the 88-minute film about the rising Asian-American basketball star, Jeremy Lin.

In the end it's a tad long -- perhaps 15 minutes could have been cut -- replays of cool dunks on the court or others that were redundant, but on the whole, the documentary directed by Evan Jackson Leong is a good effort that captures a comprehensive portrait of the athlete through his highs and lows.

Leong first heard about Lin when he was in Harvard and thought it would be a good story to follow an Asian-American blazing trails in basketball. No one knew what would happen -- being picked up by the Golden State Warriors, then let go, then picked up by the Houston Rockets and then two weeks later cut by them too.

He next went to the New York Knicks and at first wondered why he was the bench warmer. But then Anthony Carmelo got injured and Lin thought he would be cut again, but gave it his last shot.

Then Linsanity happened.

The documentary also gives a good idea about Lin's childhood, how his father was obsessed about basketball and made sure his sons learned how to play too. After that Lin and his two brothers played everyday after school and through the family's support, Lin kept moving up the ranks.

During the film Lin is reflective and analyzes what was going on at the various points of his career, and recounts conversations or events with clarity. Viewers also get to see his self-deprecating side, dead-pan humour that makes him endearing.

Christianity also plays a prominent part in the documentary -- and it's understandable since it's what made Lin who he is. He so strongly believes in his faith, that God has the perfect plan for him, that the audience sees how his focus on his religion has made him believe this is what has propelled him to where he is today.

In the end he realizes his perception of what "God's perfect plan" for him was not to have a smooth ride, but to learn from his mistakes, to train hard and then grab the opportunity when it comes and play his best every time.

Another interesting aspect of the film was addressing the racism issue. Some Asian-American sports reporters and bloggers raved about Lin, but were skeptical about how far he would go because he wasn't black or white.

It was shocking to hear that while Lin was playing at the college level, students from Ivy league schools, who should be educated and progressive, shouted racial taunts at him, telling him to go back to China or that he was a chink, or that maybe he should open his eyes wider to see the ball.

While there was Yao Ming, who literally transplanted himself from China to the United States to play in the NBA, Lin was born and raised in Palo Alto, California, so as a very young man, he had to shut out these racial slurs and just focus on the game.

However, as he rose up the ranks, he was not allowed to play or when he played badly, he was sent down to the D Leagues, which is where it's basically every man for himself and they have to constantly prove why they should be back in the big leagues.

So when Lin finally makes his breakthrough with the Knicks, one can clearly see how much this means to him after all his hard work and perseverance.

And for Leong this was his lucky break too -- what if Lin hadn't become Linsanity?

The fimmaker admits Lin helped write the ending for him and now that the documentary is hitting the film festivals -- earlier at Sundance and at SXSW and now Hong Kong, we hope Linsanity will not only help Chinese fans gain an even greater appreciation of Lin, but also inspire more stories about young Asians making waves.


  1. BTW, were you surprised that Jeremy Lin's father looked to have preferred to speak in Mandarin rather than English -- whereas his mother was okay with speaking English when interviewed?

  2. Yes that was an interesting observation... some people are like that, they feel more comfortable speaking in their own language. What I also found interesting was that Lin wore the #4 jersey! A total no-no for Chinese people!

    1. Great point about the no.4 jersey. It didn't stop mainlanders embracing him as one of their own though!

  3. Maybe he was trying to defy the negative cultural things around the number 4? Or I'm thinking way too much into it... Good to hear from you Mark!