Directed by Yi Seung-jun, Crossing Beyond follows the stories of six athletes as they prepare for the 2018 Winter Games. In fact, it is a full hour into this 101-minute film before we reach the Opening Ceremony. Two of the athletes, Alpine skiers Sajjad Husaini and Sayed-Alishan Farhang of Afghanistan, end up not qualifying for the PyeongChang Games. Two of the others are given secondary attention.
Although it is not mentioned in the film, snowboarder Billy Morgan of Great Britain had already competed in the Sochi Olympics in the slopestyle event. When big air is added to the Olympic program for 2018, Morgan seizes his chance. We watch him become the first person to complete a backside quadruple cork. “If it was easy,” he says, “it wouldn’t be fun.” At the PyeongChang Games, he earns the bronze medal.
Daniela Iraschko-Stolz of Austria, a pioneer in women’s ski jump, won the silver medal in the inaugural Olympic competition in 2014. This time around, she places sixth. She calls attention to the fact that although the men have three Olympic ski jump events, the women have only one. (A mixed gender team event was later added for the Beijing 2022 Games.)
The two athletes who get the most attention are Ghanaian skeleton competitor Akwasi Frimpong and Korean/USA ice hockey player Park Yoon-jung. Frimpong lived in Ghana until he was eight years old and then joined his parents in Amsterdam, where he lived, initially, as an illegal immigrant. He moved to the United States when he was 22 years old. There, he became a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman in Salt Lake City, married and became a father. Originally a sprinter, he discovered skeleton racing and qualified as Africa’s representative to the 2018 Games. He places last in a field of thirty, but he entertains the crowd with a victory dance for having made it to the Olympics and surviving all three runs.
The center of attention in Crossing Beyond is ice hockey player Park Yoon-jung. Adopted from Korea when she was four months old, Park grew up in the United States, in Minnesota, a hotbed of hockey. In fact, her sister, Hannah Brandt, played for the U.S. team at the PyeongChang Olympics and won a gold medal, which, in the film, she shows off to Yoon-jung and others towards the end of Crossing Beyond.
Park, who grew up with the name Marissa Brandt, unexpectedly finds herself in the center of the big story of the 2018 Olympics: the entry of a combined South Korea-North Korea ice hockey team. At first, Park and her South Korean teammates are upset at the prospect of incorporating not two or three but twelve new players into their squad. However, the North Koreans prove to be hard-working and, Park tells us, after the third practice, the situation settled down and she even made new friends. Park says that she did not anticipate large crowds for their matches because ice hockey is not a popular sport in South Korea. But because of the addition of the North Koreans, the team becomes a symbol of peace and reconciliation, so the stadium is packed with wildly cheering fans (and the North Korean cheerleading squad) for each of their three matches. They lose all three, but Park earns the assist for the Koreans’ only goal of the tournament.
Director Yi dispenses with the other 96 events of the PyeongChang Games in a six-minute montage interspersed with shots of people around the world watching on television or on their computers. The film climaxes with the Korean hockey players saying goodbye to each other with tears in their eyes as the North Koreans board their bus to go home. There is also a poignant image of a small bird resting on the barbed wire that marks the demilitarized zone that divides North and South Korea.