About this project
WE STILL NEED YOUR HELP!
Can you pledge $1? Our stretch goal is to get to 800-1000 backers by December 21. Can you pitch in and help spread the word? We need an army of support to get people to believe in this story!
WHAT IS NINE-MAN?
NINE-MAN is a streetball game played in Chinatown by Chinese-American and Chinese-Canadian men. It’s fast, chaotic, unpredictable, grueling; the rules are distinct and exist no where else in the world—imagine volleyball with 18 guys, dunks, and bloodied elbows. This is a sport that is completely unique to Chinese-Americans and therefore something very special to those who play it. Why haven’t you heard of it? Because it’s played only by men. And two-thirds of the players have to be “100% Chinese”. And perhaps because good things are often kept secret. If you’re not part of the nine-man community, you may have no idea what an incredible scene it is. We’re trying to change that. After decades of mainstream obscurity, it’s time for people to get to know this colorful corner of Chinatown. We're making a film about it.
ABOUT THE FILM
"9-Man" is an independent feature documentary about an isolated and exceptionally athletic Chinese-American sport that's much more than a pastime. Since the 1930's, young men have played this gritty, streetball game competitively in the alleys and parking lots of Chinatown. When the community was a Bachelor Society (men outnumbered women 4-to-1) at a time when anti-Chinese sentiment and laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act forced Chinese restaurant workers and laundrymen to socialize exclusively amongst themselves, nine-man offered both escape and fraternity for men who were separated from their families in China and facing extreme discrimination and distrust. Today, some 80 years later, nine-man is a lasting connection to Chinatown for a community of men who know a different, more integrated America and it's a game that has grown exponentially in athleticism. Nine-man punctuates each summer with a vibrant, aggressive, exhausting bragging-rights tournament that unites thousands of Chinese-Americans and maintains traditional rules and customs.
"9-Man" introduces the history of the game and a diverse cast of modern-day characters - from 6'7" Olympian Kevin Wong to a 91-year-old pioneer - combining vérité footage and interviews with never before seen archival footage and photos sourced directly from the community. Pivoting between oil-spotted Chinatown parking lots and jellyfish-filled banquet scenes, the film captures the spirit of nine-man as players not only battle for a championship but fight to preserve a sport that holds so much history.
A NOTE FROM THE DIRECTOR
I discovered nine-man in the late 1990’s when my brother started playing. It was this amazing community where guys had confidence, swagger, height and muscles—all things that defied stereotypes of Asians. This, of course, was way before Jeremy Lin and Yao Ming. We had been raised in the suburbs and this connection to Chinatown and its own warrior-sport gave us something to be especially proud of as Chinese-Americans. As I moved on to a career as a sports journalist, I held especially tight to this spirited image of Asian men. To put it bluntly, mainstream sports coverage is not friendly to the APA community—it’s full of long-held ideas that reinforce the notion that Asian athletes are inherently inferior. I struggled with this as I tried to navigate the politics of my career and fight for what is right. That’s why I’m so passionate about this independent documentary and have dedicated more than four years of my life to film it. This is an opportunity to show Asian-American athletes without the filter of mainstream misconception. The pioneers of this sport are in their 80’s and 90’s and I’m thrilled to tell their story after decades of it existing in obscurity. I'm proud that I was able to record their memories before it was too late. As a work-in-progress, this film has already brought eyeballs to Chinatown’s unexposed diversion; a sold-out audience of 870 at The Life Issue: ESPN + Pop-Up Magazine enjoyed a two-minute sample edited by Academy Award nominee Jacob Steingroot and the Museum of Chinese in America is planning nine-man programming for the first time. This is an important slice of Chinatown history that deserves to be preserved for generations and told in a way that honors the nuances and struggles of the Chinatown community.
WHO WE ARE
URSULA LIANG (Director, Producer, Cinematographer) is a journalist who has told stories in a wide range of media. A former staff editor at T: The New York Times Style Magazine and writer/reporter at ESPN The Magazine, Liang was a host of the radio program Asia Pacific Forum on WBAI, associate producer for the Emmy-nominated documentary, "Wo Ai Ni Mommy", producer for the Emmy-nominated Asian American TV show "Stir", and sports editor for the Asian-American magazine, Hyphen. She recently produced for Fuel’s “UFC Countdown”, FX’s “UFC Primetime” and the independent documentary “Fighting Foster”. Liang grew up in Newton, MA and lives in The Bronx, NY. She played club volleyball at the University of Michigan.
MICHELLE CHANG (Editor) is a versatile storyteller who specializes in long-form documentary. She is currently editing the feature “Black and Cuba” and outreach content for “American Promise”, a film about the education of African-American boys. She is also the editor of “(A)sexual”, co-editor of “Camp Victory, Afghanistan” (PBS and PBSWorld), and associate editor of “Pushing the Elephant” (PBS’ “Independent Lens”). Chang edited two seasons of “Black Folk Don’t”, a web series discussing stereotypes in the black community. Formerly an associate producer for ABC’s “20/20” and “Primetime”, in 2008 and 2009 Chang attended the Sundance Documentary Edit and Story Lab as an assistant and a fellow. Chang grew up in Troy, Michigan and lives in Brooklyn, New York. She enjoys hiking, biking and bowling.
THERESA NAVARRO (Producer) is an organizer, educator, producer, actress and the development & communications director at Educational Video Center. Formerly the director of community outreach at the independent media non-profit Arts Engine, curator of the Media That Matters annual showcase and corporate relations manager for the Center for Asian American Media, Navarro was a producer of the indie comedy “Yes, We’re Open” (world premiere: San Francisco Asian American Film Festival) and associate producer of “Daylight Savings” (world premiere: South By Southwest). In 2011, she was selected as one of 15 Asian American Women Leaders for her work in promoting the media arts. Navarro grew up in San Francisco, CA and currently lives in New York City. She is a champion competitive flag football player.
WHAT IS KICKSTARTER?
Kickstarter is a crowd-funding platform that enables creative projects like "9-Man" to find the financial support that they need to reach their artistic goals. It operates with an all-or-nothing model, so a Kickstarter campaign must reach or surpass its fund-raising target or it can't keep any of the money pledged.
Your contribution to the "9-Man" campaign will help to fund a portion of the editing, archival research, music, graphics, pick-up shoots, and animation that are essential to getting this project on it's feet. Our fund-raising target is only a fraction of the cost of making an independent documentary—but one that we thought was reasonable given the platform's all-or-nothing model. A percentage of your contribution goes to credit card and Kickstarter fees. The rest will go towards making a great film!
OUR THANKS TO YOU
We have a few perks available as thanks for pledging your support—note the nine–man-themed levels. Hope something sparks your interest—from exclusive opportunities to get close to the production team and see the premiere, to major billing in the film credits, to priceless insider tips to Chinatown. Thanks to a generous donation from the NY Strangers, we just added a new reward: a limited-edition 25th Anniversary NYMini x Imaginary Zebra collaboration t-shirt, which celebrates a yearly 9-man tournament in the heart of New York's Chinatown. Just look right and choose your thank you swag →
*NOTE: All rewards can be shipped anywhere in the world, unfortunately we checked the wrong box and can't change it now. Just email us if you're an international supporter and are having trouble selecting the reward you want.
Your donation is tax deductible! “9-Man” is a fiscally-sponsored project of the International Documentary Association (IDA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Contributions on behalf of “9-Man” are payable to IDA and are tax deductible less the value of any goods or services received, as allowed by law. The value of goods and services being offered is noted under each donation level. If you would like to deduct the entire donation you have the option to simply decline the reward at checkout.
DONATING BY CHECK
If you would like to make a contribution by check, please click here.
A COMMUNITY OF SUPPORT
Crowdfunding has become a indispensable financing tool for today's documentary films. More than an injection of cash, it helps build a community of support around a project. We are inspired and motivated by the number of people who have liked our page on Facebook, Tweeted about us, and helped us spread the word. It's encouraging to know that people (who we don't even know!) care about this story and are curious to see the finished product. Please help us by sharing this campaign by text, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, email or even the old school phone and USPS!
STAY IN TOUCH WITH "9-MAN"
Visit our official "9-Man" Website and sign up for updates. Add us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr or Google+. Check out our page on the International Documentary Association Website.
The "9-Man" Crew
Risks and challenges
We have a team that is committed to making this film. The biggest challenge is timing and how quickly we can get this done. Like with most independent documentaries, funding is a struggle, and this Kickstarter campaign represents only a portion of the money we need to raise to complete the film. We will get it done, but there are times we have to stop our forward progress to generate dollars; with your help, we will move more swiftly and efficiently. There is a risk that rewards for this project will encounter delivery delays if we come upon stumbling blocks as we wrap up production, and some reward fulfillment will be affected by the length of our festival run. It's a challenge to convince the mainstream that a story about Asian-American men and sports is worth telling, but we are fighting to take this documentary to as wide an audience as possible. Our crew is social-media savvy, well-connected and experienced with media relations, public relations and marketing - and with your help, we will can make sure this hidden history is never forgotten. Thank you for having faith in us!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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