Directed by Xuetong Joey Zhao
A coming of age story of a 12-year-old Asian girl who wants to realize her self-worth, experiences a collision of reality and realizes what is important.
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Born and raised in China, and having graduated from the Central Academy of Drama, Joey Zhao is an award-winning director, funded by the Chinese Scholarship Council to study at American Film Institute as a 2019 Directing fellow. In 2022, she has been selected as the finalist of Hillman Grad Indeed Rising Voices program.
Joey has a breadth of experience, including working with renowned director Emir Kusturica. Her narrative short, In the Silence, was selected for dozens of film festivals worldwide; it was then exhibited throughout China.
Breathing a mixture of Eastern and Western culture and inspired by animation and magic realism, she uses the malleable medium of film to focus on social issues. She always puts a spotlight on minorities and explores themes of death and family. Joey aims to create art that voices the complex nuances of culture, gender, and ethnicity through visceral imagery.
After I flew for twelve hours to the dry climate of Los Angeles in the autumn of 2019, my nose started to bleed severely during the first shoot in AFI, and I was sent to the emergency room. I passed out and had a transient loss of consciousness, and I felt like I was continuously falling to a bottomless black hole. It was so dark and deep; all I could feel was that I wouldn’t remember anything that happened in my life before. It was for the first time I was so close to death.
Then I had a tough time during the one-year-quarantine since March 2020, experiencing an intimate friend’s death, and undergoing the darkest hour in life, as I felt further-away from home than I ever had before. During this time, I thought a lot about life and death extensively. I had this vision of rowing a small boat, lonely, on the endless sea surrounded by danger, and the only light was the stars above. To me, those stars were family affection. There is a Chinese saying that says, “You can’t know about life without knowing death.” I didn’t realize what I had and how blessed I was in terms of my parents’ love until I was faced with my friend’s and my mortality.
I always wonder what if we could find the time we lost? What if we could regain the warmth and beauty that we buried deep in our minds? And I discovered that Eastern philosophy and Western science make this possible on the screen. As an individual, what responsibilities do you need to take towards the ones loving you or the ones you love? And what are the “invisible” larger group social issues behind the superficial dilemma?
In this era of speed and consumerism, many people are used to talking about the intangible macroscopic world, but seldom observe the daily minute details around them. Still, it is precisely the trivial bits that determine the temperature of life. Especially after experiencing so many deaths and losses worldwide, how will human beings evolve? As a storyteller, I want my audience to think about what is most important to them in life. I strive for them to feel love and be in love and treasure what they have from the womb to the grave.