Sooner & farther

I spent part of Saturday afternoon at the FilmBar in Phoenix, a hip venue located near Valley Youth Theatre that screens films, exhibits local art and offers fun refreshments.

Owner Kelly Aubey was gracious when I called at the last minute to alert him of my plans, and took special care to introduce me to Andre Magnum and his parents, who then introduced me to several of Andre’s coaches, both Chinese and American.

Andre Magnum, whose story is told in a 2012 film titled "A Boy in China"

Magnum is the subject of a new film titled “A Boy in China” from Empty Mind Films — which also features mother Margot and father Kenn, plus several of Magnum’s martial arts trainers and school teachers.

“A Boy in China” was filmed at three locations in China, as well as San Diego and Phoenix. It shows Andre learning Chinese characters, training, competing, taking academic classes and spending time with his parents.

The family lives here in the Valley, where Margot works as a preschool professional, but Kenn also lives in Beijing so he can be close to the school where Andre studies and lives in a dormitory during the school year.

Kenn, Andre and Margot Magnum after Saturday's screening in Phoenix

Margot notes that Kenn was the first robotics teacher at Chandler High School when sharing that their only child’s other loves include building giant LEGO creations and playing several sports. Playing soccer with friends was the first order of business after Saturday’s screening.

Magnum’s adventures began after he saw a Jackie Chan movie and told his parents he wanted to try kung fu. He’s studied several different forms of martial arts, and describes himself today as a competitive Wushu and traditional Kung Fu athlete. His goal is to compete in the Olympics.

Magnum’s first coach, Master Joseph Eagar of Phoenix describes kung fu as a blend of sport, art and science that involves not only learning technique, but also history and how to be a good person.

Andre Magnum with three martial arts coaches who attended the premiere

Eagar says the word that best described Magnum the day they met was “energetic.” Magnum’s mom readily shares that he was diagnosed with ADHD at a very early age, and recalls the doctor telling them that lots of physical activity might be helpful. 

When it became apparent that local martial arts classes for kids his age weren’t nearly intensive enough, the Magnums began to consider other options. The time apart is tough, they say, but worth it to help their child pursue his dreams.

Nowadays they’re busy promoting “A Boy in China,” which needs to make the film festival rounds before possible release on a broader scale. Also exploring a You Tube series fictionalizing Magnum’s story, and readying for his second year at the Shichahai Sports School.

After Magnum’s father asked for my reaction to the film, I shared that it reminded me of the precision and perfection expected of my daughter Lizabeth during nearly ten years of training in classical ballet.

I mentioned feeling like James and I have experienced a similar sense of letting go, now that Lizabeth studies theater in New York City. “Every parent has to let go some time,” I told them. “But for you,” I added, “it’s sooner and farther.”

— Lynn

Note: Click here to read more of Magnum’s story in a Floyd Burk piece titled “Kung Fu Kid.” And watch for more news of Magnum family adventures in future posts. 

Coming up: A “Stage Mom” review of “A Boy in China”

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