2008 CIFF: “The Red Race” Review – The price of China’s Gymnastic Golds – “Child Abuse” ?

The Red Race is an up close and very raw look of how China trains her young children (boys and girls as young as 5 or 6 years old) in gymnastic. Highly recommended look of the inner workings of China’s gymnastic gold medals generating machines.

After watching the film, I didn’t mince words at all and basically call some of those coaches “practicer of Child Abuse” and should be punished by laws. I refuse to call the “multiple and deliberate tripping” of a 5 or 6 years old little girl by her female gymnastic teacher anything other than Child Abuse.

Here is the synopsis of the film from 2008 CIFF,

With the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the recent past, and the world’s focus on China, this tiny little film perfectly captures the paradoxes and myths of the Chinese Olympic juggernaut in its training regimes for children. Seeing the Machine’s toll on the small faces of exhausted, crying children is a revelatory snapshot of a nation’s insistence on dominance and a testimony to its poor citizens and their obligations to the state. The gymnastic children of The Red Race carry all of these expectations on their proud little shoulders and, through tears and injury, manage to maintain their dignity, striving above all else to make their parents proud and to realize their potential. Despite the slender odds and ceaseless criticism from instructors, they stand firm and behave well beyond their years to exemplify courage and perseverance. The Red Race is a fascinating study in Chinese methodology and gives us glimpses of golden Olympic obsession and the human costs necessary to achieve it.

Here is Variety’s review of the documentary (emphasis added),

China’s passion for gymnastics comes with an extraordinary human toll, says Gan Chao’s revelatory, often brutally unblinking documentary “The Red Race.” Though interest in the item will spike in the run-up to the Olympic Games in Beijing, the tender age of these mercilessly driven children and Gan’s cool, classical style ensure the pic’s relevance and shelf life whenever such competishes are mounted.

In general, I am allergic to too much nationalistic pride, be it Canadian, American, Chinese, etc. And when nationalistic pride was to be built on sacrificing the lives, dreams, and health of young children of any country, I think the price is too high to pay.

Here is a clip of scenes from The Red Race. Just look at the images as I have no idea of what language was spoken. It pains my soul to see some of these images not because the trainings are tough but because these children are way to young to decide what is right and what is wrong for them, and to me the coaches went too far deep into the territory of Child Abuse.

9 Responses to 2008 CIFF: “The Red Race” Review – The price of China’s Gymnastic Golds – “Child Abuse” ?

  1. Sports Fan says:

    This is barbaric. China should be banned from international competition indefinitely until these practices end. These are human rights violations, plain and siple. Barbaric! These are only children!

  2. kempton says:

    I agree that this is barbaric indeed and the sad part is that they are just children.

  3. […] The Red Race by Chan Gao is the most smashing movie in that section, because it deals with Chinese children – gymnasts (somewhere between 5 to 8 years old), during their brutal trainings in the Lu Wan District Youth Athletic School in Shanghai. […]

  4. Stefan says:

    I’ve seen this documentary, it’s very well done. I thought it’s gonna be boring but it’s very lively and half of it is funny with the way the Chinese usually talk and joke. It’s also emotional when some of the little kids keep missing their parents.
    The general feeling of those coaches is mixed. The situation can be presented much much worse than is in reality by making a small clip of sequences, you have to see the whole movie to make an opinion. The lady coach is an arse-hole and she’s hard and brutal, and doesn’t show any love. The guy coach is so-so, he’s funny, is milder, and hard only on occasions, he’s acceptable.

    @Sports Fan, don’t think that China is the only place in the world where they have very hard coaches, just because it’s, well, China. From all the hundreds of schools of USA, you don’t think there’s at least one like that there? I read on the news on occasions from all over the world, about stuff like this. It just happens. I feel sorry for the mentally tortured kids though (the little girls training with that woman coach).

    And remember the world is imperfect anyway. In every state you’ll find all sorts of wrong sh*t no matter how democratic it is, unfortunately.

    The final sights of Shanghai were stunning! This documentary is between recommended and highly recommended (in my opinion).

    Peace out.

  5. kempton says:


    Thanks a lot for your thoughtful comments.

    Seeing great docs like this one is what made me love documentaries in general.


  6. […] Red Race This is a repost of my 20th Sept, 2008 post “The Red Race” Review – The price of China’s Gymnastic Golds – “Child A… This documentary covers topic that is unlikely to be covered in Hong Kong and definitely will not […]

  7. lomodeedee says:

    thanks for comenting on my blog, and sorry for such a long delay in my reply… your post on The Red Race was so helpful for mine… keep up the good work… best…

  8. […] differently it was perceived in a Shanghai Daily article promoting it earlier this week. Whereas this English-language blog refers to the footage as displaying all the characteristics of “child abuse,” the […]

  9. […] about The Red Race during the last edition of ZFF. Back then, only my bloggin’ colleague Kempton had some additional material about this amazing film. Meanwhile, the producers of the film designed […]

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