Fran Johnson, aka Film Buff Fran, contributor to Keep the Flame Alive Podcast is on to showcase an Olympic-related film.

Film Buff Fran on “Zero to Hero”

Release Date: May 25, 2023

Category: Movie Club | Podcast

We’re getting ready for summer movie season! Film Buff Fran joins us to talk about “Zero to Hero,” the 2021 Hong Kong biopic of So Wa Wai, Hong Kong’s first Paralympian to win the gold medal.

Check out the trailer:

If you’ve seen the movie, we’d love to know what you think! Drop us a note!

Our next movie will be “A Promise Kept: The Oksana Baiul Story,” which you can watch for free on Crackle and Plex. Will this be a made-for-TV movie that’s so bad, it’s good? Here’s a teaser:

Look for that conversation near the end of summer.

Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!


Note: This is an uncorrected machine-generated transcript. It contains errors. Please do not quote from the transcript; use the audio file as the record of note.

Film Buff Fran on Zero to Hero (Episode 288)

Jill: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Keep the Flame Alive, the podcast four fans of the Olympics and Paralympics. If you love the games, we are the show for you. Each week we share stories from the athletes and people behind the scenes to help you have more fun watching the games.

I am your host, Jill Jaracz, joined as always by my lovely co-host, Alison Brown. Alison, hello, how are you? Hello.

Alison: Happy Memorial Day.

Jill: happy Memorial Day. Not really happy. Well, what, what we’re memorializing,

Alison: but, right. But for us, in the US it is the start of the summer season, which means people will start seeing our feet and you’ll be happy to know I took care of my own pedicure.

Jill: Oh, very good, very Didn’t,

Alison: I didn’t need anybody to help me.

Jill: I think that is a foreshadowing of what we will be talking about today. like you said, summer movie season is getting into full swing, so we’re kicking it off with our look at Zero to Hero, a 2021 biopic about the Hong Kong Paralympian. So, Wa Wai. At the Hong Kong Film Awards, it racked up nine nominations, including best pitcher and had one win for Ho Jung who played so Huawei as a teenager.

The film has also won the Chinese American Film Festival, Golden Angel Award for outstanding film, and Sandra Kwan Yu Ning, who plays Huawei’s mother, one for best actress in the leading role. Take a listen to our conversation

movie club.

Fran, welcome [00:02:00] back. We are talking zero two Hero, the biopic of, so Huawei, what do you got

Film Buff Fran: for us? Well, this movie is another foreign film that we’re discussing, and it tells the story of a Paralympic runner from Hong Kong, and it just shows, his rise from, his humble beginnings.

He was born With cerebral palsy. And unfortunately he was not able to walk in the early part of his life. And then it shows him progressing to being able to use his legs and then his mother realizing that he can actually run. And she luckily is able to get him involved with the local Paralympic team and that got him started on his running career.

The neat thing was that the Paralympian so Huawei was actually part of four Paralympic games. So it was really neat to see, him be able to participate in so many games. you know, you hear about so many athletes and they prepare for one games or maybe two.

I don’t know how common it is, in certain sports to participate in that many games in your sport of choice. But, his story was very inspiring to me. It really was a testament to his strength and his desire and also his mother’s desire to see him have a better life for himself than just being this crippled boy, in Hong Kong.

what I really felt was instead of really being an Paralympic biotech, It really was more a human story about the bond between this mother and her son, and what, people will do for their children, to try to get [00:04:00] them to succeed and to survive in the world, though they have restrictions and limitations.

What did you guys think?

Alison: I did like that we got away from a few tropes. We had a training montage, but it wasn’t set to the inspirational music. Mm-hmm. You had the coach, coach Fng, who I adored. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. My favorite character in the whole

Film Buff Fran: movie. Mm-hmm. Oh, he was great.

Alison: Kind of cheering and yelling and scolding.

I thought that was great. You had the beginning of. A romance, but they didn’t go down

Film Buff Fran: that road with it.

Alison: Loved that. We had no discussion of anybody’s shoes, which we keep seeing in all these movies. So that was great. The other thing I liked was that the way they showed the bond between the mother and the son was that she always clipped his

Film Buff Fran: toenails.

Alison: Which, on the one hand, Was a little gross. I’ll be

Film Buff Fran: honest. there was a

Alison: little s schev nest happening with the toenail clipping, but I did like that that is not. A trope. Thankfully we do not have toenail clipping as a movie trope, thankfully.

Jill: So this, I’ve never seen so many toenails being like, how fast did his toenails grow?

Because she like clipped them twice at the Beijing game.

Alison: But I did like that somehow we managed to have an inspirational film without it being. A term I’ve come across recently, inspiration porn and getting away from a lot of those sports movie

Film Buff Fran: tropes. And

Jill: I think that is because it’s not just his story, it’s their story and partially her story. And, and in some ways she’s almost the bigger character than he is. Mm-hmm. And. changes maybe a little bit more. I mean, he goes from being somebody who can’t talk, can’t walk, can’t hear very well, to be a very [00:06:00] successful Paralympian. In a way that’s a story we would’ve, we figured that one out, but we didn’t know what his mom went through.

And I think that’s the, more interesting element. Or maybe we identify it with it more YouTube because your mom’s and me, cuz I’m female and I could see that happening where you get the fourth job, you do everything and then of course you ignore the other kid that you had. And he calls her out, yo, you had me so that someone would clip his toenails when you’re gone, kind of thing.

it was kind of interesting to see all that the work she did to try to get her son who is probably very ostracized in that society, A life that had a lot of dignity. And made a lot of mistakes along the way.

Film Buff Fran: It was so poignant, in the beginning, when you see her as a young mother and you can see her absolute frustration, going through all the motions of, why is my kid not like everybody else? Why did this happen to me? Why is this my burden?

Why can’t he just walk? And then, there was a very kind of startling scene in the beginning where she works at a laundry and she puts her son on this roller conveyor belt, conveyor belt table, and it ends up in the laundry. So she’s basically telling him and screaming at him to walk, to save himself from getting.

Possibly, maimed or killed and she’s letting him go until she, he hits almost the edge of the conveyor belt, and then she stops it and just collapses under the extreme, frustration, guilt, sadness, of, living with. The fact that she’s gotta deal with this kid who has special needs, and what that does to her life.

Alison: I love what they did with her as a character for that very reason that she’s not the perfect mother. No. [00:08:00] That she’s not by any means, not. And throughout, because even when later on she’s making the arrangements for him to do promotions and commercials so he can have enough money to do this career, she’s still making mistakes, right?

And it is coming from a place of love, and it is coming from a place of wanting her son to be successful, but she doesn’t always get it right. And the two of them have an argument at one point where she says, Yes, you’re living with a disability, but nobody blamed you for that. And as his mother, we’ve all heard it.

Why doesn’t she discipline him? Why didn’t she do this? What did she do when she was pregnant? And the burden of that is such a weight on her that she’s always fighting against. That she somehow caused this for him.

Film Buff Fran: And it’s her fault cuz she’s the mom. And also too, like the dynamic between the two actors that played the mother and the son, even when he was younger and when he was an old, the older character, there was some really tender moments between them and you could really see that bond that they had for each other and.

It just made the movie feel more realistic in a lot of ways. Like it just felt very earthy and true to the relationship that these two characters had, and it was really poignant when the other, the younger brother lashed out. At the mother to say, look and it’s really interesting because, you always think that, the able-bodied kid is gonna be the one that’s gonna get all the attention, but the tables were turned in his case and his brother who was, you know, Handicapped, but was the superstar got all the attention and he was just kinda left to the sidelines, and try as he might, he could never, catch his mom’s attention the way his brother, had, and that was really sad.[00:10:00]

And that’s

Alison: a dynamic that you hear about a lot with. People with disabilities, even people with learning disabilities or mental health challenges that the able-bodied, mentally healthy, quote unquote child is left to his or her own devices because the parent doesn’t need, they’re not needed in the same way.

Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Taken function. But of course every son needs his mother. Every child needs their parents. In the same way. But obviously a special needs child has special needs, and that dynamic was very clear. Mm-hmm. And not overdone, they hinted at it. They had that confrontation, they had pieces, but it wasn’t, again, they avoided some tropes, which was really nice.

Film Buff Fran: And I thought it was really interesting too, you know, when they did do training montages with so Wawe it was very interesting how the coach knew how to manipulate the training to, deal with the fact that his runners were in fact handicapped in certain ways or had other abilities.

And, you know, it was really interesting to see him pull out their strengths and minimize their weaknesses, in order to get the job done. I thought that was really interesting. Did you love the three

Alison: Stooges of the teammates?

Film Buff Fran: I like Evon Drago character. I did

Jill: it was a weird feeling in the fact that you’re talking about Zero to Hero and his first Paralympics. He got success. Right. And you’re not that far into the movie, so it’s kind of like, where do you go from here? Mm-hmm. And I think that’s for me, one of the.

downfalls of the movie is that the success comes and then we’re gonna take him all the way to Beijing, which is his [00:12:00] last Paralympics. you see Sydney, you don’t see anything of Athens. But it’s just the same note over and over, and, okay, we get this. He has no money, so he’s gonna take a job as a courier, and then an agent appears on the scene.

And we have some kind of conflict there with the demands of what the agent wants versus what SOWE wants for himself. And for me, that just wasn’t. Great movie making because we then devolved into a lot of montages. Mm-hmm. There were a lot of training montages And a lot of toenail clipping.

And, and it just became one note for a long time. And that’s when the mom’s story became more interesting because there was more conflict there. And having to watch her deal with her other son and trying to find Money to support the kids and what are the constant trust of what’s gonna happen when his athletic career is over.

That Huawei doesn’t really know for himself necessarily, or is even thinking about. And I think that’s where the movie kind of stumbles a little bit, or we didn’t, and we didn’t see. You can infer that he’s a zero and he got bullied once, but I would’ve taken out a few of montages and had more showing of how he was so ostracized by society versus the one thing that he had a success at.

But then the bullies got in the way. Hmm. Kind of situation. And I, I think for me that was. That was kind of interesting. the other thing I’ll say is at the end where they have moms sitting alone in the stadium. I honest to goodness thought that a box of puffs was going to appear and we would just dissolve into a p and g.

Thank you mom commercial,

Alison: because

Film Buff Fran: it really felt like that.

Alison: Well, I do. I do wanna mention that scene because they [00:14:00] intercut. The real footage in the movie. And that was cool. Which, which it was at the end of the movie and it was brilliantly done cuz it, at first I thought to myself, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. And then I realized it was the actual footage, which was pretty cool.

We got some cool sky Camp views of the bird’s nest.

Jill: Well, and then you also realize with the intercut footage, How, not like the bird’s nest, the studio setup really was

Alison: true.

They did not show the bird’s nest bathrooms, which we discussed extensively when we were there. Talk about needing puffs.

Film Buff Fran: and it is weird because, they brought on the sports manager or, the, Advertiser guy, earlier in the film, and then it just gets forgotten for a while and then they go back to it.

You would’ve thought that the mom would’ve just jumped on that way earlier, if money was such a horrendous issue, to her family, why was it the last thing that she grabbed? To do the endorsements, but I, I thought it was very interesting that, they said that Huawei was, mentally challenged, but you know, when he was talking about the endorsements and he was saying, they were really, felt like they were compromising his integrity to do the endorsements and, you could feel that struggle.

Do I just do this like my mom says, because it’s just gonna get me some money. Or, do I walk away because it’s, I just don’t wanna be here, you know? I feel like a fool.


Alison: you watch it dubbed or

Film Buff Fran: subtitled? I watched it dubbed. I watched it subtitled. Okay.

Alison: Because the dubbed voice for a Huawei into English on the version that I watched. Was not good. It was very

Film Buff Fran: cartoonish of cerebral [00:16:00] palsy

Alison: and that kept taking me out of the film, so I think I have to go back and watch it.


Film Buff Fran: I didn’t realize we had a choice.

Alison: I. Didn’t think of it until actually right this moment, just to the dubbing is problematic, so if people are gonna watch this, I would definitely recommend watching it. Subtitled. Yeah, cuz it was like, obviously someone who does not have any kind of disability was doing the voice, but was doing like how when I try and do a, a Russian accent or my French accent, it’s like the Peppi le Pew French accent.

That’s kind of what they did with the dubbed voices.

Film Buff Fran: It’s funny how you were talking about how he had that success right away and like they just, all of a sudden they’re like, boom, we’re in Atlanta first, and then all of a sudden, boom, we’re in Sydney and they show up for like three seconds and then boom, we’re in Greece, in Athens.

And it’s like, wait a minute. That would’ve been cool to see just more sights and sounds from the actual Paralympic games versus just that in and out. you know it’s probably more production and cost, but you know that. I’m always more interested in all the inner workings, like they just showed them on the track.

There wasn’t any trope of him in the locker room really prepping for the races.

Jill: And what was interesting about the. The 1996 element, was you got hinted at, and I, I’d love to know what people remember about that time, because I believe, if I remember our history moments correctly, Atlanta 1996 was Hong Kong’s first Olympic gold medal.

And they had talked about in, in the movie, they said, oh, we got to watch that on tv, but we aren’t gonna get to watch the Paralympics. Except for, didn’t they watch that one? I was amazed that there was one they got. I’m like, how’d you get to see it? And it was nowhere

Alison: else.

Film Buff Fran: It was the first gold PA [00:18:00] Paralympic medal, right?

Yeah. So I wonder

Jill: how much of a deal that was in Hong Kong considering they were just coming off their first Gold Olympic medal as well. Like were they just all up in excitement and pride? For this event. And like you said, it’s surprising that that mom didn’t work on cashing in a little bit.

Maybe she didn’t know either. But the kind of, we gotta figure this out. Planning for the future element.

Film Buff Fran: There was also no

Alison: mention of the Chinese takeover. No, of China did not exist in terms of, the ruling of Hong Kong. And obviously 96 and 2008 would’ve been very different for the Hong Kong team.

Mm-hmm. It was a lot of controversy and a lot of what flag, what Anthem how would the teams walking in, but it was completely did not exist in the world of this movie.

Jill: Well, I would imagine that to the makers of the movie, there were no problems.

Film Buff Fran: Well, what was really interesting too was that they touched on but didn’t really go there to the inequity in the athletes and what they made. From getting their gold medals. So I thought that was really interesting that the mom, became all of a sudden this like proponent for equal awards of monetary awards to the athletes, whether they’re regular Olympians or Paralympians.

but then it just kind of died in the middle of the movie. Like she had her one Norma Ray moment of saying, yes, equality. And everybody was like, yes. And then they just didn’t speak of it again. And I was doing some research on it. And I believe that they only got equity in award amounts in 2021.

Which would they

Jill: kind of make sense because not many [00:20:00] countries were giving equal pay. Mm-hmm. And even the US didn’t start giving it until after. Pyeongchang in 2018, so that, that doesn’t surprise me. I think they didn’t touch on it cause they had to fit in another training montage and another round of toenail

Film Buff Fran: clipping.

Well, according to this article I caught online, it says Hong Kong gives, its Olympians $644,000 for a gold. 322,000 silver and 161,000 for a bronze, but it’s Paralympians get paid six times less. So I mean that’s, and we’re going to, that’s big difference. We’re

Alison: gonna touch on this again in the next book club for with Oxana Masters.

She talks about this issue as well. For the American Paralympians versus the Olympians. So Paralympians definitely

Film Buff Fran: felt that

Alison: they felt that money burden even more. And as we’ve talked to more Paralympians, many of their sports are more expensive because of the equipment. And their living expensive tend to be more just because of the additional needs that they have.

Film Buff Fran: Yeah, and in the United States, the Paralympians were typically paid $7,500 for gold. 52, 50 silver and 37 50 bronze and now, and it was something earn, yeah,

Jill: something like 25 or 50 for an Olympian to

Film Buff Fran: get gold. Uh, 37, 5 for gold. 2250 for silver and 15,000 for bronze. So not nearly as much as the Hong Kong team, but still that’s a big pay difference, especially when you have to foot the bill for all your training.

And like you said, depending on what kind of equipment you utilize, I’m sure you know a lot of the equipment. Doesn’t last very long, especially if you’re talking about certain sports like, hockey and other things. So, running probably has the [00:22:00] least amount of equipment, but it’s still pretty taxing on you.

So, you know, it was okay for all those steaks. That’s right. He had to eat meat. Mama said eat meat. And the poor little brother never got meat in this burger. That was horrendous. That was so just sad. The bread and the cheese. Well, it’s

Alison: funny because I have someone in my house who used to work at a fast food restaurant who said there was a woman who came in every day who would order a very particular kind of burger without the burger.

She just wanted everything with the fixings. Huh. So maybe the little brother just was getting a delicacy that he did not understand.

Film Buff Fran: I don’t think he understood, supposed use it that way.

Jill: Oh, well. Anything else on this one, Fran?

Film Buff Fran: It was really neat seeing a different perspective and it was really amazing to see someone who obviously didn’t think that he had a gift to give all of a sudden realize that he has a purpose.

and he can set goals and he can achieve, and it’s, that’s always a very positive and, and heartwarming story that, he gave it his all, and you could tell that he really, worked so hard and, through the dedication basically of his mother, I mean, the father unfortunately, really, really, Didn’t have much of a role in this movie and I don’t know, how much of a true role the father had, in his story in true life.

But they really made it sound like the mom did the most, to propel her son. In the right direction and, and for him that she thought. I thought it was a really great story, you know, I’m glad we watched it. It’s always good to see just a different slice of things, and how different people deal with different.

Issues and strategies that they have to do. They said a little clip at the end that when he won his final medal in Beijing, when he won the [00:24:00] 200 meter they said that he was the record holder to this day. So I’m assuming that record is still his. Could be Not sure.

I couldn’t confirm it. I’m looking at you.

Alison: I’m looking at you.

Film Buff Fran: He needed his mama there to win. He wasn’t gonna do it without her. On your ma,

Alison: get that

Jill: go.

Film Buff Fran: Had a little bit of tropes. Little, little,

Jill: little bit. Well, it was interesting to see a biopic from another country. And see how they did it and get a glimpse into the culture and know that, biopics are kind of the same.

in many ways. This was not a completely uh, You just, I could slip right into it and sit on the couch and go, okay, I know what’s coming. But, and it

Film Buff Fran: was interesting, thinking about, it’s all about relationships, like we said, this mother and her son, and then we were watching the French movie and it was the father and his son.

And their relationship and what the father had to do to, get his son to the next level. So it’s just really neat to see that kind of story translate, regardless of where you grow up.

Alison: I’m so glad we never saw the father clipping his toenails.

All right. Well, the poor kid

Film Buff Fran: had bloody toenails. She had to clip ’em.

Alison: Are there gonna be toenails in our next

Jill: movie? I hope not, but you never know because we’re going to the world of figure skating. What’s up next?

Film Buff Fran: So next up is a promise kept the Oxana Baul story. So we’re going to go back to the ice can’t wait. To see this biopic. I loved watching her skate in the Olympics, so it should be a good one. Excellent. Well,

Jill: Fran, thank you so much and we will see you next time.

Film Buff Fran: Sounds great.

Jill: Thank you so much, Fran. As Fran [00:26:00] mentioned, mixed up as a promise, kept the story, which you can watch for free on Crackle and Plex will put links to those in the show notes. I was looking around for this movie and I started watching it. Oh boy, this is going to be a movie that is so bad is good.

Alison: Well, I think if.

You go back to one of the first movies, even before we had movie club that we ever talked about was 1896, the Story of the Athens, and that was a mini-series from the eighties, right before the 1984 Olympics. I think this will have a lot of similarities,

Jill: right? It is a TV movie and I will say that in.

The first I don’t know if I watched five whole minutes or not, but you do have the coach coming in saying something in Ukrainian to Oxana and then repeating it in English for all of us

that just told me everything.

Alison: If Angela Lansbury comes in and starts telling us, you must feel the sport, then we know we are, we are ready to rock and roll.

Jill: So I hope you are all looking forward to that because I certainly am. We would like to take a moment to thank our patrons who keep our flame alive.

If you would like to become a patron, you can get access immediately to a bonus episode with Rule Changes for Paris 2024. And becoming a patron is really your way of supporting everything we do and making sure it happens. So there are many other benefits all starting at just $2 a month.

Check out flame Alive and look for the Patreon link or just check the show notes.

Alison: And I do wanna tease if you think we’re unfiltered on the regular show. There are times when I really let loose on the Patreon show and Jill says, should I edit that out? And I said, no, this is what the people pay for.[00:28:00]

Jill: That is true. So that’s gonna do it for this week. I would say, happy Memorial Day, but you’re not even gonna be here. Maybe, maybe not. Oh, we will look forward to uh, hearing exciting adventures. Maybe, or maybe when you don’t get back. Wait, I don’t wanna say that because we want you to come back

Alison: maybe showing off my new fancy pedicure in fancy

Jill: new places.

That sounds good. Yes. So keep an eye out on our Instagram page because maybe if you see anything Olympic, you’ll post it. I will.

Alison: And you can connect with us on Twitter and Instagram, flame Live podd.

You can email us at flame live pod Call or text us at (208) 352-6348. That’s 2 0 8. Flame it. Be sure to join the Keep the Flame Alive Podcast group on Facebook. And don’t forget to get our weekly newsletter filled with other fun stories about this week’s episodes. Sign

Jill: Join us again next week for more exciting stories from the Olympics and Paralympics.

And hey, book Club is coming up soon, so if you’re reading AANA Masters, the Hard Parts A different aana, we’re getting into an AANA theme here, but if you’re reading AANA Masters the Hard Parts, let us know what you think. In the meantime, thank you so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive.