• Golden Globe Awards

Zero to Hero (Hong Kong)

“Don’t ask me to start fast and strong! I always start slow and then eventually catch up – all I did in my life is coming from behind and catching up!” That’s what So Wa Wai yells in despair to his mother, when she pushes him to start faster in the 200-hundred-meter dash in the Honk Kong film Zero to Hero. Written and directed by Jimmy Wan, the film is based on the true story of Paralympic champion So Wa Wai, who raced for Hong Kong as a sprinter in five special Olympic games between 1996 and 2012. 
It’s also a story about the extraordinary connection between a mother and her son. “It’s not easy to be a handicapped boy”, says Wa Wei, played by Chung-Hang Leung; “it’s not easy at all being the mom of a handicapped son”, retorts his determined mother, played by Sandra Ng, in a pivotal scene in the film.
Early in Zero to Hero, a mother rushes her baby to a clinic in Guangzhou, only to be told the child’s future is grim: he’s been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and his prognosis is that he will never walk and will face other serious health challenges. The mother presses for treatment regardless, and so begins her journey in raising not just a special son, but a future sports star.
With an insistence at times bordering on abuse, she will urge the little boy (played by Ho Yeung Fung) to stand up and walk, and to fight the mean bullies in his neighborhood. Young Wa Wai eventually finds his inner strength, and starts first walking, then running. Wa Wei also has a hearing disorder, which results in a speech impediment. But in the end, nothing can prevent him from triumphing, either on the running track or in life. Many have called this film the Chariots of Fire of the differently-abled.
Following the chapter on young So’s early childhood, the film jumps to his running career as an adolescent sprinter, focusing on the 4x100m event in the Atlanta Games in 1996, when, at the age of 14, Wa Wai runs the anchor leg to help his relay team win Hong Kong’s first ever Paralympic gold medal. Four years later, in Sydney, the young phenomenon runs the 200-meter dash and claims not just another gold medal, but the world record in that category. Yet it’s not all easy going. Practice is tough, of course, and it’s also difficult to get by financially with the limited support offered for athletes with disabilities – so much so that one of the young man’s toughest challenges is to train at night while working during the day in order to help make ends meet for his financially strapped family.
By the time he retired due to severe physical pain in 2016, So Wa Wai had become a household name in Hong Kong, having won 12 medals at the Paralympic Games from 1996 to 2012. Director Jimmy Wan makes his first feature-length movie with this touching and inspirational portrait of the Paralympic sprinter’s efforts and his mother’s dedication. Zero to Hero was released in the US on November 15, 2021, after a successful debut run in Hong Kong, China and Asia, and having become the darling of several film festivals.
The theme song, whose title means “Road to Miracles” in English, is sung by up-and-coming Canto-pop star Jer Lau, accompanied by the voices of the Hong Kong Children’s Choir.