Wild Ball

Retired legendary basketball player Lee Benson Jr struggled to find life purpose by playing village tournaments in rural China. His violence and temper led him to the top on the court, but destroyed him off the court.

  • Hongquan Li
    Director of he Heirs, Wuhan Fighting, Modern Furry Tale
  • Beichen Ding
  • Qi Zhao
    Producer of Last Train Home, Chinese Mayor (Datong), China Heavyweight; Director of Fallen City, The Invisible Shore
  • Long Xiao
    Producer of Daughter of Shanghai, I Am a Chengguan, Great Barrier Reef: A Living Treasure
  • Lee Benson
    Key Cast
  • Hongquan Li
  • Beichen Ding
  • Beichen Ding
    Editor of The Plateau Stones
  • Hongquan Li
  • Xi Feng
    Editor of China Heavyweight, Sing me a Lullaby , Clebs
  • Heqiuzi Wang
    Associate Producer
    Producer and Director of Roughly Delicate
  • Project Title (Original Language):
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 29 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    September 1, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    50,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
    China, United States
  • Language:
    English, Mandarin Chinese
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
    Yes - Communication University of China
Director Biography - Hongquan Li, Beichen Ding

LI Hongquan is an independent director who graduated from Communication University of China. He used to work for top creative agencies in China. As a creative director, he filmed short videos for Converse, Anta, Lining and many other sports brands. He is also a director and photographer. He filmed a series of documentaries for major media platforms such as CCTV, Tencent and Bilibili. His works include The Heirs, Wuhan Fighting, Modern Furry Tale etc. Wild Ball is his first feature-length documentary, which won the silver award at the 2017 FreshPitch.

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Director Statement

When a man falls from a skyscraper, with each story, he will say to himself, “so far, it’s not bad”, “so far, it’s not bad”. In fact, how you fall is not important. What matters is the way you are going to land. ——La Haine

We finished filming the whole story at the beginning of 2018. However, Lee’s imprisonment once again shocked us: He was imprisoned in his early age because of gangs and drugs, and started a new life by playing basketball after he got out of prison. He played overseas for many years and reached the peak of his career in China. After his retirement, he went through an embarrassing journey of playing wild ball, and returned to the U.S. But he was imprisoned again for drug trafficking. His life is like a circle(Samsara), which returns to its starting point after years of travel. To keep himself away from the mess in life, he seems to be making a lot of efforts, or in another way, no efforts at all. His experience makes us wonder: Can talent and effort alone change one’s life and one’s destiny? Is life a circle? Is everyone bound to return to his own position and stuck in it?

Lee is a lot like the protagonist in the Raging Bull, which also provides the audience with another angle to contemplate the story: Is basketball Lee’s salvation? In the entertaining environment of wild ball, is there a way out for a raging bull like Lee Benson?

The film tells the story through chapters, whose names are all related to basketball. The first chapter “Isolation” is a basketball term. Normally, it is a privilege reserved for stars in the team; the second chapter “Turnover”tells that Benson is no longer a shoo-in in the wild ball market, and he starts to make mistakes; the third chapter “Half Time” is about Lee’s returning to the U.S. and quitting basketball. For a ball player who has played for nearly 20 years, the experience is like a cue for him to stop.

Benson has a 10-minute monologue at the end of the film, more like a confession. He finally puts his guard down, tells about the reason why he was imprisoned, and shares his perspective on life. He accepts the mistakes in his life, as well as the misfortunes. In the confession, he seems to have found peace and salvation. But, he is imprisoned once again in 2019. No one knows what has happened to him through the year. His ending shocks everyone.

The film’s soundtrack consists of two hip-hop songs, which is relevant to the black culture, also highlights the hip-hop style of the film. The lead-in music is Alright by Kendrick Lamar, and its lyric derives from a prayer on the street: “We gon be Alright.” This song is made for the black community. It is a song of consolation and calls for black people to fight. The ending song is Sword by Chinese underground rapper Feng Xiao. Its lyrics explains Lee Benson’s life from another angle: “I used to be with shabby scrap metal. I used to be on display at rich household.” Basketball is the sword for Benson, which he can use to “slice the enemy’s head”, but also “hurts himself”.