Road cycling stars in the recent screenplay adaptation of a Chinese novel which explores the spirit of sport and the dynamics of cross-cultural relationships in modern-day China. Though it’s not along the same hard-core lines as ‘American Flyers’, the film hints at a growing institutional support for cycling on the mainland.
Shot in the provinces of Qinghai and neighbouring Gansu, ‘阿米走步’ or ‘Ami Chogbo’ (a combined French-Tibetan transliteration of “friend”), is a narrative of conflict, inter-cultural friction and, ultimately, friendship between French coach “Pierre” (played by South African born, Beijing-based, actor Murray Clive Walker) and a group of local athletes he is recruited to train for participation in the Tour of Qinghai Lake.
Though it’s evident in the lengthy trailer (below) that the real-life Tour of Qinghai Lake does not feature in the film, Qinghai’s unique landscape will be familiar to anyone who has followed the hors categorie UCI stage race in previous years. Much of the film was shot in and around the Qinghai Duoba National High Altitude Sports Training Base; the “back yard” of local UCI Continental team Qinghai Tianyoude Pro Cycling.
Of course, no aspiring sports-drama is complete without a romance, so the relationship that develops between Pierre and a Tibetan nurse – after the former takes a parodically-wobbly spill on the boards of an innocuous-looking velodrome – makes a central contribution to the story. Whether China’s first bike-themed film might be the catalyst for a feature-length product about the real-McCoy remains to be seen, but a gritty Höllentour-style film may be required in future to counter the heady melodrama evident in ‘Ami Chogbo’.
Backed by the central government’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, the year-long production – which concluded in October 2012, and has reportedly since been entered into the 2013 Milano International FICTS (International Federation of Sports Television) festival – will be playing in select cinemas across China as well as on state television CCTV.