New York-based MFA Lab supports up-and-coming Chinese filmmakers

Updated: 2013-09-06 11:39

By Caroline Berg in New York (China Daily)

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 New York-based MFA Lab supports up-and-coming Chinese filmmakers

Filmmakers and film enthusiasts gather at Ran Tea House in Brooklyn, New York on Saturday for the fourth installment of Zhong Films' MFA Lab project. Caroline Berg / China Daily

For New York-based film enthusiast Lesley Yiping Qin, "MFA" is not just a "master of fine arts" graduate degree.

"'Masters of filming awkwardness' is named for setting up a platform for emerging student filmmakers," Qin said to introduce the fourth installment of MFA Lab at Ran Tea House in Brooklyn, New York, on Saturday.

MFA Lab is the offline part of the project Zhong Films, co-founded by Qin and Jane Jingyu Shi, dedicated to recognizing and supporting student and amateur filmmakers from different cultures by showcasing their works and providing a platform for inspirational and instructive talks.

"Originally, it was targeting Chinese filmmakers," Qin said at the screening. "But later on I figured we shouldn't pigeonhole ourselves to only Chinese or Chinese speaking communities, because filmmaking is collaborative projects."

Saturday's screening, titled Some Good Fish in the Sea, showcased four films produced by female writer/directors, and it was the first MFA Lab to feature a piece produced by a non-Chinese speaker.

"I thought I was really, really lucky to find the strong connection out of the four films we're showing [this month]," Qin said. "Partly it's female experiences and partly it's that all these films have detachable autobiographical elements in them."

One story depicts a girl yearning for maternal companionship and another portrays the struggle of a preadolescent girl having to wear a training bra. One American woman experiences a night of true intimacy triggered by a brief encounter, while a young Taiwanese architect finds artistic inspiration out of personal suffering.

After the screening, filmmakers were invited to discuss the balance between personal experience and fiction in their stories and how the process of making a fiction film affects its creator.

Pei-Ju Hsieh, who screened her 10-minute film Knighthood was born and raised in Taipei. She has written, produced and directed several 16mm and digital shorts in Taiwan and the US. The first film she ever made involved a sentimental toilet bowl in love with a human girl. Hsieh is now pursuing her MFA in film directing at Columbia University.

Yulin Liu screened Door God, about a girl who loses her childhood innocence and her life after heartbreak. Liu was born and raised in Beijing and is pursuing her master of fine arts in filmmaking at New York University. After several years of traveling between East and West, Liu says the cultures and philosophies she has been exposed to have melded together and now drives her filmmaking. Now, she is developing her first feature, Lost and Found, to be filmed in China.

Doris Chia-Ching Lin is not only a filmmaker, but also a multimedia artist and set designer from Taiwan. She has gained widespread recognition for her work, including a short screen adaptation film, Drop Dead Gorgeous; a collaborative large-scale video installation, Troupe de Fetishe; and a 16mm experimental short film, Missing Peaces. For MFA Lab, she screened Maquette1:1000.

Jessica Sue Burstein is an award-winning writer and director with experience in commercial, film and television production. She is currently a senior writer and director for Syfy at NBC Universal and writing her third feature film based on her new short, Chicken, which was screened at MFA Lab over the weekend.

Qin said she hopes MFA will become a regular monthly program at Ran Tea House, which features events for rising artists, filmmakers, musicians and culture practitioners, particularly with Asian backgrounds.

Previous MFA Labs included screenings of the feature film, Family Plan in April; six short films by US and China-based artists for a program titled, So Forgivably Young, in May; and two award-winning documentaries for the aging-themed program, When We Are Old and Gray in June.

(China Daily USA 09/06/2013 page11)