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March 28, 2006

Mystic Ball

A Film By Greg Hamilton

Official Selection – Canadian Spectrum
Screening #1           May 01, 2006            9:30 PM          Isabel Bader Theatre - WORLD PREMIERE
Screening #2           May 07, 2006            7:00 PM          ROM Theatre

(Toronto, ON), Tuesday March 28, 2006 - Imagine passionately devoting two decades of your life to a sport no one else plays – on this side of the planet at least.
In the documentary film Mystic Ball, a chance encounter with an exotic ball leads a Canadian man on a journey deep into the little known culture of Myanmar, and its traditional sport, Chinlone.
Chinlone is a unique combination of sport and dance, a team sport with no opposing team. Over 1,500 years old, it is unknown to the world outside of Myanmar. In essence Chinlone is non-competitive, yet it’s as demanding as the most competitive ball games. The focus is not on winning or losing, but how beautifully you play the game.
For Greg Hamilton of Toronto, what begins as a physical exercise soon becomes a meditation and a dance with gravity.
Mystic Ball follows Greg on his visits to Myanmar over a period of 20 years, as he evolves from an awkward beginner to a teammate capable of "soloing" with the greatest chinlone players in the country. En route, he juggles feelings of bliss and self-discovery with occasional bouts of self-doubt and inadequacy.
During numerous trips to Myanmar and the city of Mandalay, Greg is embraced by a community that shares his passion. He is now known as "Mr. Greg" to millions of Burmese who watched on TV as he became the only foreigner to ever play in one of the huge Buddhist festivals that celebrate Chinlone. And in time, he comes to learn about its mystical nature.
We see the development of his friendship with the "Golden Princess" Su Su Hlaing, the greatest Chinlone solo artist in the country. We see Greg blossom under the tutelage of Ko Maung Maung, a veteran top player whose son, Aung Soe Moe is considered the finest chinlone player alive. And we learn what Chinlone means to a couple of elders who have been playing the game everyday for the last 70 years.
The climax of Mystic Ball sees Greg get his chance to play with Ko Maung Maung on the best team in the country, the Dream Lovers.
Eight years in the making, Mystic Ball will introduce you to more than just a mesmerizing sport. It will also engage you in a beautiful story about the happiness and fulfillment that comes from following one’s passion.

Greg Hamilton, Director - Bio

A lifelong student of Asian culture, Greg Hamilton is the leading foreign authority on Chinlone, the national sport of Myanmar, and the first foreigner to play the game at the highest level.
Greg has practiced and taught martial arts, and created games and workshops to enhance balance, awareness, and agility. He is also a gifted musician, who arranged and produced the original music for Mystic Ball.  
Originally from Canada, he has traveled extensively, and has lived, worked, studied, and performed in Indonesia, Thailand, Sudan, Japan, and Myanmar. He currently is based in Toronto with his girlfriend Suzan, and is in the process of organizing the first-ever Chinlone world tour.
Mystic Ball is Greg's first film.
“My goal in making Mystic Ball is to present the beauty and culture of Chinlone," he says, "and to share my story of a strange passion that led me on a spiritual journey that is still continuing.”

Matthew London, Producer - Bio

Matthew London has been working in the visual arts much of his life. Among his acclaimed creations is the award-winning multimedia museum installation and
interactive CD-ROM, American Visions: 20th Century Art from the Roy R. Neuberger Collection.
Matthew studied photography at the San Francisco Art Institute and documentary filmmaking at the International Film and Television Workshops in Rockport, Maine. He is based in New York City.
In 1986, he was introduced to Chinlone by his friend, the director Greg Hamilton.
Mystic Ball is his first film.

- About Chinlone -

Chinlone is the traditional sport of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. In essence Chinlone is non-competitive, yet it's as demanding as the most competitive ball games. The focus in Chinlone is the pursuit of elegance and beauty as a team.

Chinlone is a deceptively fast game. A team of six players passes the ball back and forth with their feet and knees as they walk around a circle. One player goes into the center to solo, creating a dance of various moves strung together. The soloist is supported by the other players who try to pass the ball back with one kick. When the ball drops to the ground it’s dead, and the play starts again. There is no scoring, no winners or losers.

Chinlone means “cane-ball” in Burmese. The ball is woven from rattan. It makes a distinctive clicking sound when kicked that is part of the aesthetic of the game. Players use six points of contact with the ball: the top of the toes, the inner and outer sides of the foot, the sole, the heel, and the knee.

Chinlone is over 1,500 years old. Over the centuries, players have developed more than 200 different ways of kicking the  ball. Many of the moves are similar to those of Myanmar dance and martial art.  Some of the most difficult strokes are done behind the back without seeing the ball as it is kicked.

Form is very important in Chinlone. There is a correct way to position the hands, arms, torso, and head during the moves. A move is considered to have been done well only if the form is good. Chinlone is an art that is constantly evolving, each new generation adds their own style to this tradition.

Chinlone and Buddhism are connected within Myanmar culture. Buddhist festivals happen constantly throughout the year and Chinlone festivals are often a featured part. These festivals attract large audiences who watch for hours as team after team play. Teams try to outdo each other with spectacular moves and great play. An announcer calls out the names of the moves and entertains the audience with clever wordplay. Live music from a traditional orchestra inspires the players and shapes the style and rhythm of their play.

It’s common to see men and women playing together on the same team. There are even teams with adults and children, and it’s not unusual to see elders in their 80’s playing. There is also a solo performance style of Chinlone, done only by women, who thrill audiences with daring feats of balance and skill.

Chinlone forces players to be absolutely in the moment – the mind cannot wander or the ball will drop. All serious players experience an intensely focused state of mind, similar to that achieved in Zen meditation.

Chinlone is an extraordinary combination of sport and dance – it’s a celebration of foot juggling skills and an expression of pure play. Ultimately Chinlone is a game that creates love rather than winners and losers.

- Key Credits -

Directed by Greg Hamilton
Produced by Matthew London and Greg Hamilton
A Black Rice Production
2006 - Canada/USA
83min, PAL DigiBeta, Color
Official Selection - Canadian Spectrum - Hot Docs Film Festival, Toronto 2006

Director: Greg Hamilton
Producers: Matthew London & Greg Hamilton
Narration: Greg Hamilton
Editor: Mary Manhardt

Wolfgang Held
Bill Jersey
Aung Ko Latt
Matthew London
John Marsonet
Alex Morrison
Emiko Omori
Jeremy Pollard
Dyanna Taylor

Sound Engineer: Sean O'Neil
Sound Editor: Paul Hsu
Composer: Ismet Ruchimat
Motion Graphics: Zachary Bennett
Production Manager: Suzan Mah