Students practice at Frank Lee’s Muay Thai and kickboxing gym in Edmonton.

Students practice at Frank Lee’s Muay Thai and kickboxing gym in Edmonton.

Creston library presenting National Film Board documentary examining father-son reunion

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The Creston and District Public Library presents the National Film Board of Canada feature documentary Legend of a Warrior on May 9.

Frank Lee is more than just a celebrated martial artist; he’s practically a superhero, able to knock down evildoers before they know what hit them. Renowned for bringing white crane kung fu and Muay Thai kickboxing to Canada back in the 1960s, Frank evolved his own style of full contact fighting and established himself as coach, promoter and the owner of a successful fight gym.

Born in mainland China, and emigrating first to Hong Kong, then to Edmonton, Frank began practicing kung fu at the age of 10, opened his first martial arts studio in downtown Edmonton in 1966, and shortly thereafter was named a grand master. Black Belt magazine named him “the father of kickboxing in North America”. But as far as his son, filmmaker Corey Lee, is concerned, Frank, as champion at everything else, has never quite been a champion father. Frank’s status as a trainer and world-renowned coach have kept him at an emotional and physical distance from Corey.

After decades of estrangement, Corey sets out on a bridge-building mission: he will try to connect with his father by training with him again for the first time in 25 years.

It will not be easy for a man in his forties — with two children of his own — to take up the gruelling routine that proper training demands. And the training is indeed tough, almost as leather-tough as Frank himself. But as the teacher-student relationship progresses, the father-son relationship begins to reassert itself, at first incrementally and in often surprising ways.

Corey accompanies his father to Hong Kong, where Frank revisits the much-changed haunts of his troubled youth. Corey is given a chance to learn more about his dad and to reconnect with a vital part of his own culture. It is in China that the emotional journey Corey has set in motion comes to an unexpected and moving climax.

The director formed enriquePoe Moving Pictures in 2001 to produce his own films. Corey has also crafted music videos and short films, including his Kilter trilogy, adapted from the 2003 Giller Prize short-listed collection by John Gould, the animated Armour for a Boy and the experimental drama Awaken. Corey is an instructor of screenwriting, directing and the filmmaking process at the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers. He lives in Calgary with his wife and two children. Legend of a Warrior is his first documentary film.

Legend of a Warrior is not only a fascinating look at a complicated father-son relationship, it’s an inventive documentary using a combination of archival and live action footage, as well as comic-book style animation.

Legend of a Warrior runs at the Creston and District Public Library at 7p.m. May 9 (use rear entrance). Admission is free. Running time is 80 minutes. For more information, call the library at 250-428-4141.