Liu Yutsu, PhD candidate, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Directed by Zhang Borui, Step Back to Glory (2013) is based on the true story of the Jing Mei Girls’ High School tug-of-war team, which took first place in an indoor tug-of-war world-cup tournament in Italy in 2010, the teammates surpassing their limitations and proving themselves in international competition.
Step Back to Glory is novel in its approach – tug-of-war, the film’s main axis, is a common Taiwanese sport, and protagonists are a group of senior high-school girls. But these young women aredifferent from the majority students who enter high school via the examination system. Because of family backgrounds, economic pressures or other factors, most of the teammates are tibaosheng, students whose superior athletic abilities ensure them places in Taiwan’s high schools. The girls hope their outstanding skills and performances will gain them admission to good universities as well.The team trains day in and day out, facing up to disappointment, doubt, and uncertainty about the future. A stern coach, a gentle teacher, and a kindly grandmother provide different kinds guidance, awakening the girls to the possibility of growth, providing direction for the future, teaching them to work together and believe in themselves.
As one line from the film has it,“In virtually all sports victory is achieved by charging forward; only in tug-of-waris glory won by retreating, step by step” – “advance by retreating” is the life philosophyinherent in the picture. Tug-of-war stresses cooperation; the individual works in service to the group – with every shout and exhalation teammates pull together, gripping the rope, the calluses on their hands and rope burns on their waists both testimony to rigorous training and proof of endurance. The sport teaches students responsibility, and, more importantly, cooperation, sacrifice, and solidarity.
Step Back to Glory not only gives viewers an inside look at tug-of-war, but also touches on schoolwork, life, friendship, and family relations.Laughter and tears evoke the richness of youth, and confidence and ideals embody the unremitting will to win. To the teammates, tug-of-war is more than just a sport –it’s a symbol of self-fulfillment; the competition changed the course of their lives, and their victory spurred renewed public interest in physical education in Taiwan.
|Related Literary Themes：||Young Adult|