A Canadian documentary is getting a rare honour in China today, with Montreal filmmaker Yung Chang's China Heavyweight opening in wide theatrical release.

An official co-production between Montreal's EYESTEELFILM and China's Yuanfang Media, the doc has qualified as both a domestic film in Canada (where it opened in April) as well as in China, where it opens Friday.

The film will screen in 200 theatres across the country, including major cities such as Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou and Shanghai.

The wide release makes China Heavyweight the most widely screened documentary in Chinese history.

Chinese-Canadian filmmaker Chang, whose other films include the acclaimed documentaries Up The Yangtze and Fruit Hunters, turned his lens on the once-maligned sport of boxing for China Heavyweight.

During the Cultural Revolution, boxing was banned and blasted as too western and brutal. However, in recent years, the sport has regained a following across the nation.


American-style boxing has gained ground in China after years of being banned and blasted by officials. (Liu Yang/Sundance)

China Heavyweight follows a state boxing coach who scours the countryside looking for teens who he can groom into Olympic-level competitors. It debuted at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and won a raft of international awards, including being named 2013's best documentary at Taiwan's prestigious Golden Horse Awards.

Chang, who has been promoting the film in China, has said he sees boxing as a metaphor for the country's youth and its struggle towards individualism.

"It's something like a metaphor about the young generation and about what it means to be an individual, because boxing is about fighting for boxers themselves," he told Chinese press.