PING PONG (2013, doc)


ping pong1 Greetings again from the darkness. Missing a lung? No excuse. Had a kidney removed? Please. Suffer a few strokes? Let’s play. Struggling with Dementia? Grab a paddle. Rarely has the human spirit provided a better platform than in director Hugh Hartford’s documentary about super seniors (age 80+) and their pursuit of a World Championship in Table Tennis/Ping Pong.

We get to know a group of these players through interviews and a glimpse into their personal life. The core group in the film ranges from age 81 to 89 and are in various stages of health … from pretty spry (one of the ladies has a boy toy 20 years younger) to hospital-bound given only a week to live (the interview took place 5 months after that diagnosis). One thing I noticed in each of these experienced folks … put a paddle/bat in their hand and you can see the twinkle in their eyes and a bounce in their step! There are multiple World Championship gold medalists represented here. There are arch rivals. Their are long time friends. We even meet a legendary Australian player … she competes at 100 years old! The “rookie” from Houston describes her own playing “as irregular as my driving“. One of the men spouts off poetry and Irish limericks before dismantling an opponent on the table.

This is a pleasure to watch and I’m thankful it was recommended by a friend of a friend. Should you question the motivation of these elderly folks, take in this quote from one of the players: “I’ll keep playing. I don’t want to sit down. I don’t want to die.”

**NOTE: the version I watched was online at pbs.org and was 52 minutes in length.  Evidently an 80 minute version made the festival rounds.

watch the trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRd5wY_5zZo

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