All the pressures of China's struggle for gold at the Beijing Olympics seems to have been heaped on the tiny shoulders of the 5-6-year-olds in that country's gymnastics program. China is a gymnastics crazy country and the lengths they go to are shocking. You try to not impose your own cultural biases upon what goes on in other countries, but in my opinion no matter how you slice it what happens to these children is child abuse.
Director Gan Chao's excellent film is an eye opening look at the myths and inconsistencies of China. The discrepancies between the poor backgrounds and shabby high rise apartments these kids come from and the bright lights and big cities they are brought to are glaring. You understand the attraction and the reason why these parents basically give up their kids. They think that they are giving their kids an opportunity to escape the poverty that would be their destinies if they did not turn to gymnastics. You not only see, but feel the pain that these tiny people are subjected to. The human toll for the drive for gold really is quite huge.
In the quest to win a record number of gold medals the Chinese government amped up its training of its young gymnasts. You have to endure scenes of a gymnastics teacher tripping over and over again on purpose a young girl as part of her "training". It will break your heart. The gymnastics coaches believe in "teaching" through humiliation. If the kids do not accomplish the crazy goals they set up for them they are punished and if they somehow manage to succeed they are rewarded with candy. The criticism goes on and on and these barely out of diapers kids are expected to take it all in. The strength they exhibit despite all this abuse in an attempt to make their parents proud will bring tears to your eyes.
Scene after scene of a child crying due to the pain and verbal abuse they are put through is so difficult to watch. They are subjected to all this without or with very little support and love from their parents. At 5 or 6-years-old they are forced to stand on their own. They feel the pressures of knowing that if they make it far they will earn enough money to make a better life for their families. What child should have to shoulder these kinds of pressures.
The documentary, despite how hard it is to watch at times, is fascinating. Chao does not back off from the difficult stuff; he keeps his gaze steady and focused. In the end I think you'll agree that despite the fact that the Chinese did do better than they ever had at the Beijing Olympics that the human price is way too high.