Description from TIFF 2008 catalog by Thom Powers:
The path of a warrior monk is not an easy one, even if their jaw-dropping martial arts feats can appear effortless. The Real Shaolin follows two Chinese and two Western students of kung fu over months of difficult lessons and life-changing experiences, revealing just how much hard work goes into those dazzling moves.
The Shaolin Temple in Central China is the legendary birthplace of kung fu. Decades ago, it was destroyed and its practitioners reduced. But the rise of kung fu movies &”8211; and especially the release of The Shaolin Temple, starring Jet Li &”8211; inspired an effort to rebuild the temple, which led to a new surge of students.
First-time director Alexander Sebastien Lee is a Korean-American who originally visited Shaolin to study kung fu himself. His insider’s knowledge pays off immensely, and he gains incredible access to the different schools set up around Shaolin. Though we do not have to suffer their aches and pains, we get our own education by following the four students. From China, nine-year-old orphan Yuan Peng learns the mystical practice of “Iron Body Qigong,” and Zhu, a teenager from a poor rural family, trains in the kick-boxing sport of Sanda. From the West, a nineteen-year-old American named Orion aspires to become like his hero Bruce Lee, and Eric, a twenty-nine-year-old Frenchman, yearns to study with the Shaolin Grand Master Shi De Yang. The filmskilfully weaves together their trials and tribulations as each strives to achieve their own goals.
The Real Shaolin not only transports us to a different country, but to a different state of mind, where everything is sacrificed for athletic mastery. For the Westerners Orion and Eric, adjusting to the foreign mindset is an added challenge. For Yuan and Zhu, the stakes are even higher, as they have no other prospects. Whether you have nominal or substantial interest in kung fu, it is guaranteed to expand from watching this film. But please refrain from practising air kicks as you leave the theatre.
About the director:
Alexander Sebastien Lee was born in Los Angeles. He studied theatre at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and French at La Sorbonne in Paris. He also studied film production at the University of Southern California. The Real Shaolin (08) is his feature directing debut.
Visit the film’s official website: www.realshaolin.com