ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts: #BringBackSungWoo (2015)

Directed by Josh Swade & Josh Shelov

The problem I had with Josh Swade’s previous entry into the 30 for 30 series was that he made it too personal. His style is very much that of a video diary, and the problem is I’m not quite sure how interested I am in the interests of Josh Swade. In that film, There’s No Place Like Home, we see Swade parading around trying to get other people to buy into his idea to buy the original rules of basketball for the University of Kansas. In #BringBackSungWoo, and don’t even get me started on the stupidity of the hashtag title, Swade sets out to bring a Korean, Kansas City Royals superfan, Sung Woo Lee, back to Kansas City in time for the 2014 World Series, believing him to be a good luck charm based on Lee’s August KC trip which set the Royals on a winning streak.

As with There’s No Place Like Home, Swade’s passionate mission seems half-baked. On a whim, he travels to South Korea to find Sung Woo Lee, who has just started a new job and does not believe it appropriate to ask for vacation time so soon to travel back to America to root on his favorite team in the World Series. Swade manages to make every interaction with Lee’s company awkward, whether it be with the company’s PR director, or Lee’s boss. He never manages, at least not on film, to even convince me that Lee “needs” to go to America to cheer on the Royals. Also lost in all this is Lee’s own wishes. Sure, as a superfan I’m sure he would love to see them in person, but he clearly feels a responsibility to his employer to stay in Korea and show his commitment. It’s potentially a once in a lifetime opportunity, but Swade arrogantly seems convinced that his desires align with those of Sung Woo Lee’s.

Where this film does succeed, however, is in its portrayal of Sung Woo. He is an extremely passionate Royals fan, and one who exudes a certain level of positivity that it becomes infectious, and is refreshing in a day and age, at least in America, where negativity typically wins out for most sports fans. Sung Woo instead enjoys the moment for what it is, win or lose. He will cheer his team on to victory, and applaud their effort in defeat. It is very cool how social media has allowed people from all over the world who have similar interests to connect. I sympathize with Sung Woo given the Royals defeat to the San Francisco Giants in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series. I’m not sure I sympathize with Swade.

**1/2 – Average

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

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