In the martial arts world, Kung Fu is known for combining agility, strength, endurance and perfection. It’s respected worldwide as a male dominant sport. In the film DRAGON GIRLS, a documentary by Inigo Westmeier, we are told the story of three girls at the martial arts school Shaolin Tagou in Central China’s Henan province.
With over 26,000 students it is the biggest Kung Fu School in China and is located right next to the Shaolin Temple where Kung Fu all began.
Xin Chenxi (9 years old) and Chen Zi (15 years old) train daily at the school along with thousands of their school mates. One day they want to be part of the nation’s Kung Fu elite. Their daily gruelling and disciplinary training is fuelled by the hopes of not only becoming the best in China but also for the underlying necessity to help their families out financially in the future.
However, the pressures from the school is extreme and not all girls can handle it. The film also takes a look at Huang Luolan (17 years old) who couldn’t take it and eventually returns to her home in Shanghai where she happily works in a nail salon.
The film makers of DRAGON GIRLS negotiated with government and school officials for over 18 months to gain permission to film.
“The children today are very lonely. Sure, the work is important, but children are more important,” says Westmeier.
“My vision is that of a magical movie with a critical eye. A film which tells the personal stories of three girls who learn to fight form morning to nigh tin order to escape poverty.” says Westmeier. “On a second level it is realistic and takes a critical look at the system in which these girls grow up. My goal is to show the behind the scenes and the human and interpersonal of three training girls, displaying their origins, their dreams, their lives. It is not the impressive “facade” that fascinates me so much, but the child’s face behind it, that which shines through during and especially after training.”
DRAGON GIRLS is released in Canada by KINOSMITH INC. and is the winner of the Hot Docs 2013 Best International Feature Documentary Award.
Here is the official trailer: