In this delightful, warmhearted documentary about Chinese basketball sensation Yao Ming, directors James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo follow their subject through his 2002-'03 season with the Houston Rockets, his first in America. The film begins as Yao prepares to leave China and ends as he returns to the mainland for the off-season. In between, we watch as he is thrust into a maelstrom of culture shock, media attention, and intense professional pressure. In fact, Year of the Yao is really the story of two rookies, both Yao and his translator, Colin Pine, a charmingly green twentysomething equally stunned by the blinding headlights of obsessive media attention. Committed to easing his client's transition, Pine introduces Yao to the fundamentals of American culture (video games, road rage, and shopping); he also supports Yao emotionally, offering encouragement during his initial struggle. Thanks to Pine's presence, the film deepens considerably, portraying a real friendship, a relationship forged quietly amid a deafening storm of distraction. The mutual respect and gratitude are clear.