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Shiyue Xu’s YuanYuan Wins Another Award at La Femme International Film Festival

Filmmaker Shiyue Inspired by Fellow Female Filmmakers

By ashley colliePublished 2 years ago 5 min read
Shiyue at work on set

Winning Best Short at La Femme International Film Festival

The excellent film, YuanYuan, was written, directed and produced by filmmaker Shiyue Xu and recently earned the best short film award at the 2021 La Femme International Film Festival. Shiyue, who has directed and worked on both documentary and fictional films earning additional awards, was proud to witness emotional audiences responding to YuanYuan by crying with joy, something which “touched me and proved that all the hard work we do is worthwhile.”

But for Shiyue, who was raised in the wondrous Chinese city of Tianjin which is known as "The Land of the Arts” and where she developed her passion for the arts, the LA Femme International Film award meant something even more. She explains: “When I went to see the screening of YuanYuan at the LA Femme Festival, I found a lot of great work created by female filmmakers. We all know making films is very challenging generally. But especially for a female, there is a lot of things we have to give up on, such as taking care of family, getting married, etc.”

Above all, these decisions are even more poignant for someone like Shiyue, who grew up under the One-Child policy in China, explaining, “I think most Chinese kids from my generation all have the same childhood memory—we all had a very lonely childhood, and at home, most of the time we just played by ourself.”

Review on YuanYuan from the ‘Kids First!’ Film Festival: “The subject matter of YuanYuan, of the father’s presumed infidelity, is a complicated one for young children and, it is not until the end that we learn it has been misunderstood by our little protagonist…The message of this film is to not see something that is not there. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and highly recommend it.”

Shiyue on YuanYuan set

So, it’s obvious how decisions about marriage, creating family and having children are crucial to people like Shiyue. Her film YuanYuan is actually an “unspoken message” to her parents: “I want them to know that the things kids most care about is their family. People talk to me after watching this film that they truly agree with this film, because most of their parents don’t know how does divorce affects a child's heart.”

Indeed, it’s no surprise that Shiyue has an interest in children and their stories as topics for her films. For example, in 2016 her first project as a director/reporter was on a powerful documentary film called The Left-Behind Children.

On the set of her documentary, The Left-Behind Children

She explains: “We went into the most remote and poorest village in China where the only permanent residents are the elderly and young children whose parents have to work in large cities to earn money to support their families back in the village. Because they have to be away all year round, the kids are ‘left-behind.’ When I pointed the camera at these innocent kids, the strength and kindness that exuded from their eyes touched me. No matter how troubled society is today I realized the truth of an old saying back in China that goes, ‘Even in the crevices of the sandstones where the sun is most lacking, beautiful flowers will still bloom.’”

As a result, Shiyue was so inspired, she adds, “My wish is to use the camera lens as a medium to show everyone the bright, vibrant colors of these flowers in documentaries or live action films.” And, sure enough, she wrote/directed and produced three fictional shorts about kids after her documentary experience, including: Locust Tree (2017), YuanYuan (2018) and. also Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (2019) which earned a WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival Silver Remi Award, the Fargo Film Festival Best Student Film. and North Hollywood CineFest Best Student Short Film.

Screening of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Moreover, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star also earned a Director Choice Award at the Thomas Edison Film Festival, and also earned several Academy Award Qualifying selections at the Foyle Film Festival, Flickers Rhode Island International Film Festival, and the LA Shorts International Film Festival. But, she adds, “That first documentary film made me realize that I really have a passion for filmmaking.”

Growing up, she learned to become “a very independent person.” Meanwhile, she was also exposed to the various art forms of Tianjin which ultimately helped foster her passion for the arts. She decided to attend Hofstra University in New York where she majored in media and minored in fine art. But after her stint working on The Left-Behind Children documentary back in China, she recalls, “I found the thing that I wanted to do for the rest of my life—filmmaking—so I decided to learn film and returned to the US, where I studied at the New York Film Academy.”

Most importantly, after producing several fictional shorts and working at commercial and music video sets, she further narrowed her focus in filmmaking, explaining, “I discovered that I enjoyed making documentary more than fictional film, that I like ‘recording’ a story more than making a story up.” So, she began attending Chapman University in California where she is working on an MFA Documentary, adding, “For me, making a documentary is like absorbing real stories from the outside world, while a fictional film is about conveying stories I created internally. But the thing is, no matter what kind of film, conveying my position and thought as a filmmaker.”

On the set of her documentary Island

Consequently, this multitalented filmmaker plans to focus on documentary films over the next five years, explaining, “While I will be making some short documentaries, I am also working on my feature documentary Island, which is centered around patients dealing with depression, peeling back the little-known lives of this group of people—it’s estimated over 95 million people in China live with depression.”

Indeed, as she hopes to get her Island documentary into film festivals by the end of this year, they may not be any stopping this ambitious filmmaker.

Drop in on Shiyue Xu’s website, and on IMDb. Also, check out the trailer to her documentary Island, and link to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.


About the Creator

ashley collie

Award-winning journalist-author-blogger has written for Playboy, Sports Illustrated, Hello! Canada, HuffPost, Medium, BBN Times, & has his novel, REJEX, available on Amazon.

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