This year’s International Women’s History Month has prompted me to seek stories centering women. I want not only to continue educating myself about feminism but to also empower myself. During my search, I discovered Leap (2020).
Leap (2020) Trailer
Leap is a biographical sports film that follows the struggles of China’s National Women’s Volleyball Team over 40 years.
I went into the movie expecting a story about complex female characters and their perseverance and successes. But I got so much more than that.
Leap is a feminist film. It centers around Lang Ping, a real volleyball player and later coach of China’s National Women’s Volleyball Team.
But unlike many films that claim to be feminist, it displays feminine strength in a multidimensional way. The film explores the difference in generational cultures in China.
In the 1980s China faced many cultural, economic and sociological hardships. In the film, this is reflected in the type of strength the team had to display.
The team was trained harshly with little breaks and could display no weakness. The director, Peter Ho-Sun Chan, demonstrates this by focusing on the members’ physical endurance.
The evidence of their hard work is visible on their bodies through their bruises, scrapes and cuts.
These women were driven by their love for their country and the sport. Competitions were opportunities to bring China national pride in the international sphere.
This form of feminism was what was necessary in the 1980s. It was proof that women aren’t delicate objects for display. Women are capable and have strength. In the case of the Women’s Volleyball Team, women can bring national pride.
However, this form of motivation wasn’t sustainable as China continued to progress. Lang Ping understands this and so the film reflects this as well.
In the film, Lang Ping opposes all her male colleagues and overturns the volleyball team’s antiquated training regime. Unlike the previous regime, Lang Ping allows the players breaks and encourages them to find individual pursuits.
She also forces them to confront their own motivations for playing volleyball. One of the team members, Zhu Ting, is forced to recognize that she was playing volleyball for her parents, because it is what is expected of her.
But Lang Ping reminds her that this mentality prevents Zhu Ting reach her full potential. Zhu Ting has to play for herself as well.
A crucial line in the film comes when Lang Ping tells her colleagues, “I’ll also tell my players that volleyball is our job. Not our whole life. I hope our players aren’t only the best athletes, but also the best human beings.”
This line counters the previous philosophy of nationalism and is reflective of modern feminist ideas. Women can be strong and bring national pride.
But they can also have families and relationships and other pursuits. Strength and feminism is not one dimensional.
“Leap” not only celebrates but acknowledges the complex identity of women and what they are capable of.