Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hao Wu, The Road to Fame - Robinson Film Center, Union College, & Ritz Theatre

From Filmmaker Hao Wu of The Road to Fame:

The first leg of my Southern Circuit tour was intense; two flights each day, and one to two hours of driving to get to most screening venues. Exhausting, but what a trip! As an immigrant who had lived in six American cities over fifteen years, I had never stepped foot in the south. Not that I didn't want to - kids of my generation grew up in China reading Gone With The Wind, but somehow I never managed to. Now I'm able to have a fast and furious immersion of southern hospitality, all thanks to South Arts.

Meanwhile, I'm hoping my The Road to Fame is bringing a little China to the south. Most of the audience members have never been to China. So naturally, I was apprehensive about how the audiences would receive such a subtitled film from a faraway land.

Surprisingly, however, many came up to me after the screenings, saying the characters in the film didn't feel foreign to them. At the Robinson Film Center and Union College, students completely identified with the dreams, the anxieties over potential failures, and the pressure from family and society that the Chinese students experienced in the film. Those with ambitions in the arts felt the resonance the strongest.

Meanwhile, older audiences tended to be more interested in what China is like and how it is changing. At the Ritz Theater in Sheffield, AL, several audience members had visited China a long time ago, and it was eye opening for me even to learn about the country they knew that had been erased by recent developments. After the screening, they queried me about the one-child policy, the performance arts industry in China, and what I thought where China is going. It was extremely rewarding for a filmmaker to be able to move audiences with a universal story, and to act as a cultural ambassador for his home country at the same time.

All three screening venues so far - Robinson Film Center in Shreveport, LA, Union College in Barbourville, KY, and the Ritz Theater in Sheffield, AL - are beautiful. No hustle and bustle of the big city or the local multiplex. Stepping inside them was like being transported back in time, when film watching was once cozy and communal. My hosts - Meghan Hochstetler in Shreveport, Diana Mills at Union College and Jim Berryman in Sheffield - lavished their attention and care, for which I'm immensely grateful. I'm eagerly looking forward to the second leg of screenings in North Carolina and Georgia, and will report back soon.