Guest blog: Upcoming baseball movie "Kano" tells story of how a group of Taiwanese island teens took on the mighty Japanese in 1931 and became a part of their country's lore
Baseball movies attract baseball fans and, if they're done well, they attract a broader swath of moviegoers as well. From "Field of Dreams" to "The Babe Ruth Story" to "Moneyball," Hollywood seems to love baseball, too — on the mound, in the dugout, rounding third and often with that love story on the side.
Now comes a baseball movie from Taiwan that is to start shooting in September, with Taiwan's Umin Boya directing from a script by Wei Te-sheng, the local wunderkind who gave the world "Cape No. 7" and "Seediq Bale."
"Kano" is set in 1931 in Taiwan, where a local high school baseball team takes a ship to Kobe, Japan, to play that summer in the annual Koshien High School tournament.
In 1931, Taiwan was an economic and military colony of Imperial Japan, which ruled the island for 50 years and helped introduce baseball to young talents on the island. The movie will tell the story of a high school baseball team comprised of three ethnic groups and one tough Japanese coach. They make it all the way to the finals — and then lose — but oh, how they tried!
It's based on a true story. The Chiayi Norin Gakko team consisted of Japanese boys, Han Chinese boys and Aboriginal boys, and they took a boat to Japan — there were no 747s in those days — and played in the popular Koshien baseball tournament (which is still going strong even today).
By some kind of baseball miracle, the teenagers from Taiwan fooled all the experts and came in second. That 1931 tourney run and final game is now part of island lore in Taiwan and the movie is sure to be a home run in Taipei and Tokyo. Will it travel well overseas in North America and Cuba? We shall see.
Since 1931, Chiayi City in southern Taiwan — where this reporter lives — has been a stronghold of baseball. And since Taiwan was then part of Japan, the movie will be shot in four languages, Japanese, Taiwanese, Chinese and several Aboriginal tongues as well.
Kano was the nickname of "Kagi Norin Gakko" in Japanese, using the first two letters of Ka-gi and the first two letters of No-rin. In Japanese, the school name means Chiayi Agricultural School, or the Chiayi Aggies. Today the school is now National Chiayi University and is a full-fledged university with schools of business, liberal arts, animal science, agriculture and music.
Expect a powerful and moving baseball saga with drama involving the coaches, the teachers, the fans and a boy-meets-girl love story involving a pretty bookstore clerk in Taiwan. The release is set for summer of 2013. Even if you don't know much about baseball –particularly transplanted to Asia — the backstory of this movie could knock your socks off.