Wake Forest University graduate (MFA '19) and Beijing-native, Hao Zhang, discusses his fascinating documentary which dives into issues of isolation and assimilation among Chinese college students and Chinese Christians in the South.
What inspired you to make this film?
When I first arrived in North Carolina to study documentary film, I came to know a group of Chinese Christians. I was very interested in what they tried to do: convert Chinese students. It sounds like a good documentary idea to me! At the same time, I’m their potential convert, which makes our bond pretty tight. It’s this unique experience that inspired me to tell the story of my generation of Chinese international students in the American South.
What makes this a Southern story?
Religion and faith is a big part of Southern culture and also the heart of this story.
What were the challenges and blessings in making this movie?
I had a very tough time finding my voice and point of view during the editing stage. Since this is a pretty sensitive topic, I had to portray my Christian friends in a responsible way, which made me include my own relationship with them in this film. I feel blessed to have faculty members from the Documentary Film Program at Wake Forest University to help me through the process. Providing me with fresh eyes, professional advice and encouragement, I couldn't have made it without them.
How did the story change you?
It's a very personal story to some extent, and the process of making this film changed my view of faith and documentary ethics enormously.
What do you hope will happen after people see this story?
I hope the American public will know more about the life and struggles of Chinese international students in the U.S., in order to enhance more understanding and communications.