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With over 20,000 students, the Shaolin Tagu Kung Fu school is a massive and overwhelming structure. Students spend almost twelve hours a day training endlessly in order to excel in their art, as well as learning respect and discipline. Dragon Girls follows three girls at various stages in the school, from a member of an elite team that participates in competition, to one girl who has run away from the school claiming harsh disciplinary measures.

The opening shot of Dragon Girls shows not only the immense size of the school, but the intense discipline that each student must display. Thousands of students are pictured in a large arena, performing various exercises in complete unison. In order to provide a better understanding of the school, the film focuses on three girls, each striving to find their place in life with different results.

The school isn’t the only place where pressure comes from, as we find out after each girl’s family is introduced. The father of one girl says he won’t visit her unless she wins first place in a competition. This pressure to be the best may come from a place of love, with parents hoping their children can excel in their lives, but it seems like a bit too much for each girl portrayed. It’s all bittersweet, as you can see the sadness in each girl, even though their dedication is inspiring.

Is Dragon Girls Essential Hot Docs Viewing?

This is an outstanding film that can’t be missed. It’s inspiring and sad in the same moment, and is a fascinating look into a world many of us don’t understand.

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