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Film review: ‘Xtreme Marathon’

A modern Hong Kong Arctic Adventure Narrative in Longyearbyen and Arctic Marathon

Artist: Oscar Leung, Kenny Wong

Broadcasting company:  TVB Hong Kong
Release date: 3th-7th June, 2013

Rating: 5/6
The documentary-film, Xtreme Marathon (極地狂奔) is a modern Arctic adventurous tourist narrative made by local Hong Kong TVB television company. It serves as a good source of understanding blended Western-Chinese cultural presuppositions in Hong Kong and Chinese ideologies.

It is a 5 episode documentary about two extreme marathons: North Pole Marathon and Marathon des Sables in Sahara Desert. Adventurous expeditions these two ¨Xtreme¨ provoke reflection on human exploration and global warming. One of the Xtreme stories is about an exotic experience of a Hong Kong actor, Oscar Leung, in a polar marathon in April of 2013 and narrates side story of his participation in eco-tourism in Longyearbyen in Svalbard of Norway.

The hero Oscar Leung is signifying the blended connotation of the “Adventure” of the West and the East: being physically tough and “cool” and the virtue of “keeping face” in a group. He is not particularly physically strong as the Scandinavians and acknowledges his physical weakness in dealing with the strong wind and ice, as well as his insufficient preparation in costume-selection for freezing weather.

It is an Asian documentary film, but orientalism and European superiority is still explicitly underlined. When Oscar Leung was suffering from the strong pain of being frozen on his path of his 7th round of race out of 8, other European participants in red jacket had already finished all the 8 rounds of race without stop in 13 hours. He reflected that he believed Chinese are relatively weak in physical condition to deal with coldness in Arctic, comparing with his Scandinavian counterparts.

Introducing the town of Longyearbyen in Norway, Oscar describes the joy of reciprocal trust and harmony between the dogs and human by riding dog-sledges. He relates this kind of joyful relationship with wild dogs to the ideology of Chinese Buddhism that it is believed that there are souls in animals and they understand human.

The Arctic adventure narrative implicitly underlines a quest for local political identity:. The Hong Kong crew standing with its Hong Kong flag in the Arctic demonstrating a kind eagerness to maintain ‘One country, Two System’ in our Basic Law.

If you are interested in understanding the Eastern perspective concerning the Arctic, give this documentary a watch.

Text: Mo Yong Xin