Review: ‘Ping Pong’

"Ping Pong"

Competition docu "Ping Pong" follows eight players from around the globe as they participate in an international summit: The difference is that this is table tennis for seniors, with octogenarians on the youthful end, and one contestant still a contender at 100. Engaging if unremarkable, Hugh Hartford's polished pic is a crowdpleaser that's already gotten theatrical release in the U.K. and Canada while touring the fest circuit. It should rack up further sales as a broadcast item.

Competition docu “Ping Pong” follows eight players from around the globe as they participate in an international summit: The difference is that this is table tennis for seniors, with octogenarians on the youthful end, and one contestant still a contender at 100. Engaging if unremarkable, Hugh Hartford’s polished pic is a crowdpleaser that’s already gotten theatrical release in the U.K. and Canada while touring the fest circuit. It should rack up further sales as a broadcast item.

The protags are introduced on their home turf as they prepare for the World Over-80s Championships in Inner Mongolia, where the sizable stadium and enthusiastic audiences suggest table tennis is taken quite seriously. Spotlit players are lifelong Brit sports fanatic Les D’Arcy, still weightlifting at 89; his countryman Terry Donlon, bouncing back after serious health issues; Germany’s Inge Hermann, introduced to the sport as nursing-home physical therapy; plus another German, a Swede, a Texas-residing Austrian war bride, and hosting regional champ Sun Yong Qing. They’re all overshadowed, in terms of media attention, by Aussie centenarian Dorothy DeLow, though the attendant fuss doesn’t help her game. Ingratiating personalities drive this slick, upbeat package.

Ping Pong

U.K.

Production

A Banyak Films presentation in association with Britdoc and Channel 4 of a Hartford Brothers production. (International sales: Channel 4, London.) Produced by Anson Hartford, Hugh Hartford. Executive producers, Maxyne Franklin, Beadie Finzi. Directed by Hugh Hartford.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Hugh Hartford, Anson Hartford; editor, John Mister; music, Orlando Roberton; sound, Daniel Chu Owen; sound designers/re-recording mixers, Richard Lewis, Steven Parker. Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, Nov. 19, 2012. (In San Francisco Documentary, Hot Docs, Calgary, Warsaw film festivals; Doc NYC.) Running time: 76 MIN.

With

Les D'Arcy, Rune Forsberg, Sun Yong Qing, Terry Donlon, Dorothy DeLow, Lisa Modlich, Ursula Bihl, Inge Hermann. (English, German, Mandarin, Japanese dialogue)

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