At night many New Yorkers are looking either for a movie to watch, music to listen to, or a party to go to. Rooftop Films combines these three things seamlessly for a great night at a very affordable price.
During the summer, Rooftop Films holds an outdoor film festival at 15 different locations (many in Manhattan and Brooklyn) where they feature upcoming independent movies, a live band beforehand, and an after party.
On June 30th, they screened an upcoming documentary, China Heavyweight at the New Design High School. The rooftop of the New Design High School, called Open Road Rooftop, is a vast space covered in murals by graffiti artists from all over New York City. It really makes the 6th flight walk up worth it, especially as it offers spectacular views of the setting sun. Water, iced coffee, milk and cookies await you at the top as well.
During this particular screening, a Brooklyn duo called PIMO performed. They describe themselves as an indie lo-fi folk pop band. This quirky duo took the audience by surprise with their offbeat soft-spoken lyrics that were secretly innuendos if you knew some Japanese. For example, the title of one of their songs, “I want to be a tuna”, means I would like to be the person who doesn’t move during sex. Some of the audience did not understand what was going on while others found them endearing and would repeat their song that was fully composed of cat songs in Japanese (“nyan”) after their performance.
The director Yung Chang introduced the film. Chairman Mao banned boxing in 1959 because he believed that boxing was too American and that the Chinese people should stay away from it. The ban was lifted 30 years later and is starting to gain more fame lately. The documentary follows Coach Qi Moxiang who trains children starting in elementary school who come from poor families in a rural part of China (Huili), The film keys in on the stories of two of his older students as they make big life and career choices in the hope to use boxing to help them escape the fate of most people living in rural China: working hard in the fields from before sunrise until late at night.
The documentary has the feel of a film more so than a documentary because of the varied camera angles chosen and the flow of the conversations between the subjects. There are many elements of it that lends itself to feeling like a boxing or martial arts movie (a goal of Yung Chang) including montages of the youths and Coach Qi Moxiang training. It gets you engaged from the start with the unique struggles these three individuals face but touches on common anxieties of many 19-year old-boys – girls.
The courage of Coach Qi Moxiang as a former pro boxer who had stopped boxing after five years in order to train the future generation drove the movie forward for me. The movie follows his journey towards entering the boxing ring one last time. Motivated to be an example for his students, Coach Qi Moxiang’s determination to win shows where work can get you. The very essence of this movie is about the courage it takes to sacrifice to follow your dreams. Though I don’t use this word much, I would have to describe this movie as “heart-wrenching.” The young boxers in this movie dreamt of getting out of their rural town to be something more. It was very encouraging to see them pursue their dreams but seeing the challenges they went through was heartbreaking yet motivational to see.
After the movie director Yung Chang did a short Q&A but also made an appearance at the after party at a nearby bar Fontana’s . I saw his first documentary (Up the Yangtze) in my Modern China class in high school (another great documentary!) and was thrilled to meet him. He was a very down-to-earth guy. Many but not all screenings with Rooftop Films feature an appearance with the directors so I was lucky enough to take up some of his time.
Check out Rooftop Films for more films during the rest of this summer – $4 off tickets with Columbia discount code.
China Heavyweight will open at the IFC Center this Friday, July 6 so definitely go check that out as well!
-Yasmin Marie Vera, SEAS 2013