Movies

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The rewards of competition

Ursula Liang’s exploration of Chinatown’s 9Man volleyball is more than a look at sport

A scene from Ursula Liang’s “9-Man: A Streetball Battle in the Heart of Chinatown.”

Ursula Liang

A scene from Ursula Liang’s “9-Man: A Streetball Battle in the Heart of Chinatown.”

Chinatown has many hidden treasures — restaurants, shops, and traditional celebrations among them. In her lively, layered debut documentary, “9-Man: A Streetball Battle in the Heart of Chinatown,” Newton-born, Bronx-based journalist Ursula Liang uncovers one of the neighborhood’s lesser known attractions. A variation of volleyball (nine players instead of six, a larger court, more scraped knees), 9-Man originated in the Boston and Providence Chinatowns during the bad old days of racist repression in the ’30s. It allowed Chinese men the opportunity to bond and exert their individuality at a time when they were allowed only menial jobs and white society held them in disdain.

The sport quickly spread to cities across the country with teams competing in annual tournaments. Liang covers one such tournament that took place in Boston in 2010. Not only does her film convey the color and excitement of the event, it also analyzes it as a microcosm of the changing identity and role of the Chinese in American culture.

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“9-Man” will screen outdoors in Chinatown on Thursday at 8 p.m. as part of the free Films at the Gate series.

For more information go to www.
9-man.com.

Mane event

Not to be confused with “The Falcon and the Snowman,” the 1985 film about two half-baked Soviet spies, Ron Davis’s documentary “Harry & Snowman” is about a man and his horse.

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Harry deLeyer was an aspiring horse show jumper. Snowman was an old Amish plow horse on a truck heading to the glue factory. Their paths crossed, $80 was exchanged, and the two became show-jumping legends and media darlings as they toured America in the ’50s and ’60s.

Folks, that’s how the system is supposed to work. And what more appropriate place to watch such a film than at the Newport International Polo Grounds in Portsmouth, R.I.? Part of the newportFILM summer series, it screens at 7:45 p.m. and will be followed by a Q&A with the director.

For more information go to www
.newportfilm.com/film-events/films/harry-snowman.

Fellow editors

Most documentarians end up with dozens, even hundreds of hours of raw footage. An editor must shape this material into an integral work of art and an illuminating reflection of reality.

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None were better at that craft than Karen Schmeer. Among many other credits, she worked with Errol Morris to structure his wild and wooly portmanteau documentary “Fast, Cheap & Out of Control” (1997) into an intricate, one-of-a-kind masterpiece.

Tragically, Schmeer, 39, was killed in 2010 when she was hit by a car fleeing a robbery in New York.

Her friends and family decided that the best way to honor her memory was to support others starting out in her profession. Now in its sixth year, the Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship offers benefits that include an editor mentorship with guidance from the American Cinema Editors, free attendance at editing classes, passes to various editing workshops and seminars and to several film festivals including the IFFBoston and South by Southwest, $1,000 in editing equipment, and $1,000 in cash. And, of course, DVDs of all 13 films Karen worked on.

The deadline for submissions is Sept. 30. For more information go to www.karenschmeer.com.

Peter Keough can be reached at petervkeough@gmail.com.
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