Chinese and Chinese American Filmmakers Share Stories of Relationships at the Queens World Film Festival


With the tagline “Bringing the world to Queens and Queens to the world”, the Queens World Film Festival (“QWFF”) boldly returns for the sixth year to present feature-length and short films from over two dozen countries, a count that belies that diversity of the filmmakers, their stories, and their perspectives.  Among the festival’s thoughtfully curated 143 films are five by Chinese and Chinese American directors that explore the complexities, uncertainties, and consequences of relationships in very different ways.  Jeff Tan, Anne Hu, and Patrick Chen contemplate romantic and family relationships through fictional narratives.  Alvin Tsang and Tianlin Xu present feature-length documentaries that offer insight into difficulties many Chinese American immigrants and Chinese migrant workers experience when their families are forced to separate.

The first to screen is Mother’s Day, a short film written by Gabriel Furman and directed by Jeff Tan that asks the question: “What if a mother and son were forced to say goodbye forever?”

This film is part of “Deconstructing Family” on Wednesday, March 16 at 10 PM at Secret Theatre, 4402 23rd St, Long Island City.

Filmmaker and video editor Anne Hu, who has produced nationwide commercials and edited theatrical film trailers and commercials for television shows including The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, returns to the QWFF for a second time with the metaphorical Into the Woods, which follows an idealistic couple seeking love through the treacherous woods of their relationship.

The short film screens as part of “Love, Loss and Lies” on Friday, March 18 at 8 PM  at P.S. 69 Jackson Heights, 77-02 37th Avenue, Astoria.

Queens native Patrick Xihao Chen also returns to the QWFF for the second time with Underneath the Grey, a vignette about a blind Asian man falling in love with a black woman.  This story about “the discovery of inner beauty through self-acceptance” was conceived while he learned techniques for film color grading and was initially developed for Asian American Film Lab’s 72 Hour Shootout.  Expanding it for the festival, Chen explains, “I wanted the world to see that we are not just one color but also a beautiful blend of lives.”

The QWFF has been meaningful and rewarding for Chen, an aspiring full-time filmmaker.  As a Queens native, he was “compelled” to submit his earlier film, Love Express — a visual poem about love that takes place on the 7 train, to the 2014 QWFF.  Through his participation with the festival, he found support from festival directors Katha and Don Cato and became connected with other Asian American filmmakers.

Underneath the Grey precedes She Sings to the Stars on Saturday, March 19 at 12:30 PM at the Museum of the Moving Image.

Alvin Tsang’s award-winning Reunification is a deeply personal consideration — one 25 years in the making — of his family’s separation by immigration that led to a breakdown of his family and his emotionally turbulent upbringing.  When his mother and two siblings first immigrated from Hong Kong to Los Angeles in the early 1980s, six-year-old, Tsang was forced to stay behind with his working, and consequently absent, father.  Spending the following three years often alone in an empty apartment, he longed for his family’s reunification.  However, upon Tsang and his father’s arrival to America, that dream was utterly and permanently shattered under circumstances the filmmaker has yet to fully comprehend to this day.

Though Tsang began shooting the film in Los Angeles, he was only able to complete it in New York City because “[he] needed to be far away from home in order to see the whole picture and move on.”

Regarding this feature film’s NYC premiere in Queens, Tsang notes that “Queens signifies the mecca for contemporary Asian immigrants, so this personal immigrant story will resonate with these viewers in an intimate way.”  Read more about the film and see clips here.

Reunification screens on Thursday, March 17 at 4 PM at Secret Theatre, 4402 23rd St, Long Island City.

Germany-based Chinese filmmaker Tianlin Xu’s documentary Coming and Going, her feature-length directorial debut, is the story of four boys from the Chinese countryside, their hopes and dreams, and the challenges they face.  Two orphaned teenage brothers leave their remote mountain village behind to seek their fortune in two separate major cities.  Meanwhile, their young neighbors anxiously await the return of their father, a migrant worker who left the village a year ago.

The film screens Friday, March 18 at 6 PM at All Saint’s Episcopal Church, 43-12 46th Street, Sunnyside.

The Queens World Film Festival runs from March 15 – 20.

Lead image from Reunification.