Go Grandriders: Film Review
Hua Tien-hau's documentary chronicles a group of octogenarians as they take part in a 730-mile motorcycle journey around Taiwan.
For most senior citizens, the farthest trip they take on a scooter is to the dining room at their assisted living facility. Not so for the intrepid octogenarians profiled in Hua Tien-hao’s uplifting documentary chronicling a thirteen day, 730-mile journey around Taiwan undertaken by seventeen elders whose average age is 81. The highest grossing documentary ever in Taiwan and Hong Kong, Go Grandriders should, with the proper marketing, find appreciative audiences on its limited U.S. theatrical release.
“They might look healthy, but that could all change in days,” observes one of the organizers of the event early on, and his prediction soon proves true as the group’s leader is hospitalized with a recurrence of his stomach ulcer shortly after the ride begins.
It’s but one of many health problems -- including high blood pressure, coronary disease, and of course, joint degeneration -- suffered by the participants, who nonetheless display a stirring spirit as they are seen preparing for and taking part in the arduous journey. One rider falls asleep at the wheel -- “This is usually my nap time,” he sheepishly explains -- while another is injured in a collision. It’s not surprising that several of their children are seen in interviews expressing strong reservations about the trip.
Along the way, we learn personal info about the group, whose members include a former kamikaze pilot instructor; a widower who devotedly makes pilgrimages to his wife’s grave and asks her permission to take part in the ride; a calligraphy expert; and military veterans who fought on opposite sides during World War II.
The filmmaker documents the proceedings in refreshingly matter-of fact-fashion, thankfully avoiding the temptation to overly sentimentalize or mine cheap humor and contrived suspense from the proceedings. It somehow seems doubtful that an American director would have shown such restraint.
Opens Aug. 23
Production: The Hondao Senior Citizens Welfare Foundation, Merry-Go-Round Media, CNEX Foundation
Director: Hua Tien-hau
Producer: Ben Tsiang
Not rated, 76 min.
Sundance: On the Scene