Local Sightings 2020 – THE WORLD IS BRIGHT [Online]
Sep. 18–27, 2020
Zoom Q&A w/ Filmmakers*
Sep. 24 at 7:00pm PDT
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When an elderly Beijing couple receives notice that their only son has allegedly committed suicide and has been buried on Canadian soil, they travel to Vancouver to investigate the mysterious circumstances of his death. Director Ying Wang’s riveting docu-thriller guides the viewer down a rabbit hole of mental illness, the crushing wheels of Kafkaesque bureaucracy, and the vulnerability immigrants can face without cultural coping mechanisms.
With the patience and insight of a master filmmaker, her film effortlessly synthesizes the themes of the stigma surrounding mental illness, the invisible mechanisms of control in our modern life, the dislocation produced through global migration, and the perpetual search for meaning into a single story of modest grandeur.
* All ticketholders will receive access to Viewing Party and Zoom Q&A with:
- Ying Wang (Director)
- Jian Ping Su (Producer, Cinematographer)
- Lawrence Le Lam (Editor, Co-Writer)
About the filmmaker:
A writer and photographer in China, Ying moved to Canada from Beijing in 1997 first as an international student then became a landed immigrant. As a migrant navigating between multiple cultures, Ying is fascinated by stories that reveal the geopolitical complexity of global migration. Her younger sister developed a mental illness after immigrating to North America. Inspired by her sister’s experience, Ying wrote and directed her first feature film Sisters. The World is Bright is Ying’s second film tackling the topic of immigration and mental health from a broader sociocultural perspective.
Ying’s credits as a documentary filmmaker include producing Tricks on the Dead: The Story of Chinese Labour Corps in WWI, a Canada-China-France co-production that won two 2016 Canadian Screen Awards (Best Cinematography, Best Production Design), the 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival Audience Must See Award, and the 2015 Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival Best International Production award.
“Receiving the Canadian Emerging Filmmaker Award for this new immigrant story at a moment of heightened xenophobia is particularly meaningful. It is not only an affirmation of the film, but a powerful recognition of an experience that is shared by so many migrants and their families, myself included. Over the past few months, many of us have been forced into dislocation and isolation, experiencing loneliness, anxiety and grief at the sudden loss of loved ones. In these uncertain times for our humanity, I hope this story could give us the strength to discover our own resilience, and the assurance that we are not alone, but part of a greater whole.”
– Award reception at Hot Docs 2020
Born at the tail end of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, I am of the generation who came of age during China’s drastic modern transformation. As a university student, I demonstrated in the streets during the Tiananmen Square Protests in 1989.
Our family immigrated to North America in the 1990s in search of a better life. Reality quickly set in when my younger sister developed a severe eating disorder after our move. Her experience with the “strange” disease provided me with first hand insight into the complexities of mental illness, the damage it engenders in the life of the individual and the family, and the severe consequences of being unable to understand it and unwilling to talk about it.
I was driven to tell the story of Shi Ming and his family. His illness reminded me of my sister’s struggle; his death recalled painful memories of her suicide attempts; and his clash with the legal system resembled her own criminal case when her illness became uncontrollable. Growing up in the same society at the same cultural moment as Shi Ming, understanding who he was is a way of understanding myself and my generation. The trajectory of the Deng family, as migrants moving from rural to urban environments, and then to new countries, represents the collective journey of millions of people who leave their homes in search of a better place. Their experience is a reflection of the dilemma we are all facing in a world undergoing profound social, demographic, and economic transformation.
At once an intimate family drama and a suspense thriller, the story involves layers of complexity ranging from immigration, to psychological struggle, to the complicated and maze-like legal system. All these elements are entangled against a trans-cultural and trans-continental backdrop charged with history and politics.
The complexity provided an excellent opportunity for me to experiment with different cinematic languages, so as to create a film that is not only socially relevant, emotionally engaging, but also visually compelling.
Ultimately, The World is Bright is a modern tale of our humanity. The themes and questions the film explores – such as the stigma surrounding mental illness, the invisible mechanisms of control in our modern life, the dislocation and disconnection produced through global migration, and the perpetual search for meaning – are universal and relevant to all contemporary societies.
Panelists: Jian Ping Su & Lawrence La Lam
Jian Ping Su (producer, co- cinematographer)
Jian Ping has worked with Ying on this documentary since 2007. Before adventuring into film production, Jian Ping worked at Shaw TV and Shaw Multicultural Channel in Vancouver BC as a producer and videographer for over ten years where he produced series about the life of new immigrants in Canada. Jian Ping was also Line Producer for the Canadian Screen Award winning docudrama Tricks on the Dead: The Story of Chinese Labour Corps in WWI. He is currently working on an international co-production documentary series about the life of Dr. Norman Bethune as Executive Producer and cinematographer.
Lawrence Le Lam (editor, co-writer, associate producer)
Lawrence is an award-winning filmmaker from Richmond, BC who loves telling music-centric stories that explore underground worlds in the Asian diaspora. His short film about forbidden 70s rock & roll and long-haired Taiwanese hippies in Taipei, The Blue Jet won Best Student Production (Whistler Film Festival / Leo Awards 2016), Best Short, Best Male Actor, Best Director (Vancouver
Short Film Festival 2016), and Best in Canada at the Toronto International Short Film Festival. His most recent film, Cypher explores the conflict between the Korean and Black communities during the 90s in post-riot LA through the underground hip hop scene, and it screened at the 2017 edition of Whistler Film Festival and won Best Period Piece at Hollyshorts Film Festival 2018. Lawrence participated the 2017 TIFF Talent Lab. Lawrence is currently developing his first feature.
Back to Festival Catalog
Presented by Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum, the 23rd Annual Local Sightings Film Festival [Online] virtually showcases creative communities from throughout the Pacific Northwest. The 2020 program, which runs from September 18-27, features a competitive selection of curated shorts and feature film programs, inviting regional artists to experiment, break, and remake popular conceptions around filmmaking and film exhibition.
Local Sightings 2020 champions emerging and established talent, supports the regional film industry, and promotes diverse media as a critical tool for public engagement. This year’s festival also celebrates NWFF’s 25th Anniversary as an organization.
Vote for your favorite films by 12pm PDT on Closing Day, Sep. 27; BEST FEATURE and BEST SHORT winners receive a future screening opportunity at NWFF!