9-Man is a variation of volleyball played by Chinese men on oversized pavement courts. Popular in the southern Chinese city of Toisan, the sport gained popularity in Chinatowns across North America, as a way for Chinese-Americans to socialize with each other. The sport continues to be played today, particularly in a yearly Labour Day tournament, where 53 teams from 9 cities compete for the 9-Man championship.
9-Man is a pretty interesting documentary about this volleyball variation, which has become engrained in Chinese-American traditions. With many early Chinese immigrants living in segregated areas and forced to work in either laundromats or restaurants, 9-Man became a form of release for these men. Early versions of the game were played primarily in parking lots, with a rope as the net and a bundled up towel as the ball. 9-Man gives a crash course on how the sport differs from 6-man volleyball, with the biggest difference being the larger teams and the pavement surface.
Much of the film follows various teams from around North America, as they prepare for the yearly tournament. Since this film is my first real introduction to 9-Man, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that one of the best teams is the Connex from Toronto, who had 11 championships under their belt at the time the film was made, which results in the team receiving quite a bit of focus in the film. One small nitpick I have about 9-Man is the portrayal of a large scale fight that breaks out at a pre-tournament banquet. While definitely a notable incident, it does kind of detracts from the rest of the film, especially since it’s never mentioned again. That said, 9-Man is still a very educational documentary about this sport and its impact on Chinese-Americans.8 | LIKED IT
- Sunday, November 9, 12:00 PM – The Royal Cinema