Sunday, 24 November 2013

Ping Pong: DVD Review

Ping Pong: DVD Review

Rating: PG
Released by Vendetta Home Ent

A documentary about the sport of table tennis with a central cast whose combined age hits nearly 703? I'd almost written it off as Young@Heart but with sport instead of singing to be honest.

In this British documentary, Hugh Hartford follows the trials and tribulations as well as charting the build up to the World Championship finals in China by tracking some of the global OAP competitors.There's 81 year old Terry, a Brit who's been struck by a return of his prostate cancer issues; 89 year old Les is a fellow UK dweller and philosopher, who takes his training seriously and can be found at the gym doing weights to get in shape; 89 year old German Inge whose training's helped get her out of dementia ward - and the oldest competitor Dorothy from Australia, whose 100 years gives her celeb status at home and also at the championships.

Hartford tracks the lives of 9 of these but spends more time off the championship floor and manages to capture a spirit of fierce competitiveness as well as their tenacity for life as the end approaches. He builds their back stories so that you're invested in them as the competition nears; with moments and a style that's non-intrusive, Hartford manages to imbue the piece with heart, humour and pathos.  In a couple of sequences, he skirts around the sentimental path before deciding to concentrate on the characters rather than tugging on the heart-strings. It's a wise move which pays off once the final tournament takes place and then the sly humour kicks in as one competitor hopes she gets the opponent who can't move around the table so that she can win. As the crowds give their approval at the results among the pomp and pageantry of the ping pong world in China, it's something akin to a gladiator seeking the emperor's favour in an auditorium and it's intoxicating for both the competitors and the viewers.

With gallows humour, gentle tension and a typical deadpan Brit eye for detail and moments, Ping Pong is as much a celebration of life as it is an inspirational piece; a simply put together film which shows once the twilight comes you don't have to just give up, but celebrate the spirit that dwells within.


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