Despite social changes and adjustments within professional sport, disabled athletes themselves have been complaining that they are not treated as real athletes but only as those who are in a great need of rehabilitation. This often reflects on sponsorships, government support and endorsements. It is a widely known issue that Paralympians keep trying to bring to light. Although the Tokyo Olympics marked the first Olympic Games in which Paralympic medallists earned the same pay as their Olympic counterparts, equal pay is still a problem. 

Jimmy Wan Chi Man, a Hong Kong filmmaker and scriptwriter, chose to tackle this subject in his solo directorial feature debut, Zero to Hero; an inspirational story based on Son Wa Wai, a runner with cerebral palsy who went to become one of the most successful Paralympians in history (years active: 1996-2012). 

Image © Courtesy of London East Asia Film Festival 

“Instead of crying it out, why not run it out?” So Ma Ma (Sandra Ng) says to her young son, So Wa Wai (Fung Ho-Yeung), when he cries and is tired of training. Born with health problems and misdiagnosed as a toddler, Wa Wai wasn’t able to walk or speak. However, with his mother’s determination, very firm at times, the boy learns how to walk and use basic speech. Ma Ma quickly notices that her son can run very fast and decides to sign him up for an athletic club. As he was too young, the club refused to take him on board until one of the coaches, Fong (Louis Cheung), noticed Wa Wai’s potential. The young teenager trains tirelessly until, at the age of 15, he is chosen to run 4×100 (T34-37) at the Paralympics Games in Atlanta, in 1996. And that was just the beginning… Zero to Hero not only chronicles Wa Wai and his family’s life as well as the protagonist’s triumphs, but also their struggles, their fight against discrimination, and their campaign for equal rights for disabled athletes. 

Image © Courtesy of London East Asia Film Festival 

Fung Ho-yeung gives a powerful and emotionally wrenching performance. For an actor who is not impaired, portraying Wa Wai must have been a very complex task – he was just 14 years old when he started filming Zero to Hero. Acting is communicating what the script needs on to the screen. The actor doesn’t simply have to feel it, they need to convey it. And that’s what Fung did, he goes through almost every feeling imaginable… There is fear, anger, love, sorrow and curiosity, all executed beautifully. The young man proved that he is a great emerging actor. Fung played Wa Wai without the slightest hint of falsehood; his character is credible throughout the film, and allows the audience to look at the world through different eyes – the eyes of Wa Wai. And this is also followed by the older version of Wa Wai, who is played by Leung Chung Hang later in the film. 

Image © Courtesy of London East Asia Film Festival 

One can’t forget that the function of a good performance is to express it in a way that has a meaningful impact on the audience. Sandra Ng genuinely impacts the viewers in a special way that steals their breath and causes their hearts to race faster. The dialogue is simple yet sincere; it enriches the action and never tires the audience out.

Jimmy Wan Chi Man tells the story wonderfully, avoiding the danger of sentimentality and oversimplification. Zero to Hero is an engaging and passionate film that should be watched at least once in your life. It is also a film worth coming back to in order to remind yourself again and again that, no matter who we are and what we do, dreams exist for us to make them come true.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

Written by Maggie Gogler

View of the Arts is a British online publication that chiefly deals with films, music, arts and fashion, with an emphasis on the Asian entertainment industry. We are hoping our audience will grow with us as we begin to explore new platforms such as K-pop, and continue to dive into the talented and ever-growing scene of film, arts and fashion, worldwide.

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