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Columbia Missourian

FROM READERS: Columbia native co-directs documentary about ancient game

June 20, 2012 | 10:00 a.m. CDT
Columbia native Cole Pruitt is a co-director of "The Surrounding Game," a documentary about the ancient Chinese game of Go. The game pictured here is a simultaneous Go match of Korean professionals against amateurs at the 2012 Cotsen Go Open.

Cole Pruitt is a Columbia native and co-director of "The Surrounding Game," a documentary about the ancient Chinese game of Go. To learn more about the project, visit the documentary's website or Kickstarter campaign.

After millennia of popularity in east Asia, the ancient Chinese game of Go is spreading to America in "The Surrounding Game," an upcoming documentary film co-directed by Columbia native Cole D. Pruitt. Through the rich cultural legacy of Korea and China, and interviews with legendary Go masters, the film project explores the surprising beauty and fierce international competition surrounding this complex game.


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"While most board games are a hobby at best, Go offers an entire world with a unique lens into Asian culture," Pruitt writes about the game. "By filming in Asia and around the U.S., we want to plumb the intellectual and emotional depths of Go that have inspired centuries of players."

"The Surrounding Game" documentary is tailored to an American audience, with filming scheduled to start in July in North Carolina, where the US Go Congress and first International Go Symposium will be held.

After launching their Kickstarter fundraising campaign on June 12, the documentary team hopes to unite the American Go community in building public awareness. "The number of Go players in America has nearly doubled in the last decade," notes Will Lockhart, film co-director and physics student at Brown University. "Most important of all, this year marks the start of the American professional Go system — we're excited to see how the first American Go professionals fare against the top players in the world."

For Pruitt, a graduate of Hickman High School, the easy rules of Go make it a perfect educational and documentary opportunity. "The goal of the game is extraordinarily simple: using your stones, surround territory on the board and avoid being surrounded by your opponent," Pruitt explains. "Amazingly, this basic motive leads to unimaginable complexity, demanding whole-brain thinking, patience, creativity and self-respect. Even today, when laptop software can compete against the world's top chess players, any professional Go player can easily crush a number of supercomputers. Go says something fundamental about humans and human thought.”

After finishing filming late this year in China, Korea and Japan, the documentary team hopes to release the film in late 2013. In a nod to its founders Paul Sturtz and David Wilson, Pruitt stressed how the True/False Film Festival and its presence in mid-Missouri positively influenced his interest in documentaries.

To watch the film's trailer or to learn more about Go or “The Surrounding Game” documentary, you can visit the project's Kickstarter campaign, or go to

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.