Despite being played by over 40 million players worldwide, the board game Go has yet to reach the same level of obsession in the West as in the East where it originated. Created in ancient China, and currently the oldest board game to be played in its original form, Go is known for its meditative grace and its seemingly endless possibilities. It is also insanely addictive.
The Surrounding Game explores how this seemingly simplistic game has literally captured the imagination of its players. Tracking four teenagers striving to be named America’s first Go professional player, directors Will Lockhart and Cole D. Pruitt provide an eye-opening look at just how serious players take the game. Some, like Ben Lockhart, have even moved to Asia just to study the game full-time at a school that teaches kids as young as age five the game. Others such as Andy Lin work with almost robotic like precision playing multiple games online in preparation for an upcoming tournament.
Balancing the Eastern origins of the game with the desire of the American players to popularize Go closer to home, the film provides an almost transcendent appeal to the game itself. For some players, playing the game trumps planning for their future. Their life is the game, and nothing more.
Following a traditional sports documentary structure, the stakes in The Surrounding Game never feel as high as the directors try to make be. The reserved elegance of the game itself ultimately robs the film of a triumphant climax. However, it is the captivating allure that Go holds over its players that is the most fascinating aspect of the film. Frankly you will be itching to try your hand at the game once the film is over.
Saturday, June 10, 11:30 AM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Tickets can be purchased at the Canadian Sports Film Festival website.