University of Maryland, College Park Screening Recap and Photos


Autumn Gem at UM

Our double feature on Thursday, October 15, ended with a screening at the University of Maryland, College Park. The weather was really wet, and we were fearing the worst in regards to the turnout. But, by golly, thirty-five people said, “Hell no!” to the rain and wind and made it to the showing! Thanks go out to John Young, Rebecca McGinnis from the Confucius Institute, the Center for East Asian Studies and the Women’s Studies Departments for organizing the event.

We had a good mix of UM students, faculty, relatives (Tow clan was well represented), and outside people who heard about the film through various means (email, organizations, flyers and word-of-mouth).

Rae and I are creating a list of what works and what doesn’t with regards to getting more people from the outside community to attend the screenings. Extra-credit and course requirements don’t exactly work in this case! Scheduling screenings between noon and 5:00 pm works for students but isn’t so great for those that work outside the schools. We have a nighttime showing of Autumn Gem coming up in New Jersey tomorrow; we’ll see how good the turnout is for that.

Following the screening, we went to Wong Gee Restaurant in Wheaton to have dinner with our cousin, his family, and relatives. I’ll have more to write now, but we’re just about to start a screening at Princeton! Here are photos from UM yesterday.


Oldfields School Screening Recap and Photos


On the morning of October 15, 2009, we drove north of Baltimore to Oldfields School, Maryland’s oldest girls’ boarding school. The theme for Oldfields this year is, “Women Who Dare,” so it was an ideal fit for our documentary. Thanks to Maria and the rest of the Oldfields staff for having us! And, big kudos go out to the terrific students at Oldfields. They really made us feel welcome at the school. But, enough of me saying that. How about I let the Oldfields students speak (or cheer) for themselves!

Our presentation at the school was a little different than at previous screenings. Because the student body watched the film the day before, we came prepared to speak about our backgrounds and how we got to where we are today. Taking our existing Keynote presentation as a base, we added lots of fun biographical slides on us.


For instance, when I asked the students if they had an iPhone or iPod, the majority of them raised their hands. Then, I showed them a photo of me back when we got our Apple ][ computer. That must have been back in 1981! I also showed them drawings that I had made back in high school and college. Art and drawing eventually led to my interest in photographer (though it did take a long time for me to have my own camera), which ultimately led to videography and Autumn Gem.

The crowd also got a kick out of seeing our wedding invitations. They asked us question after enthusiastic question about the film, about us, and about our next steps. It was very rewarding to be able to share our film and our lives with them; it’s our hope that our example will help inspire them to work on their own creative endeavors. It’s certainly been an exciting one for the two of us!

Following the screening, we had lunch with Constantine and Maria. They were great hosts at UMBC and Oldfields! Unfortunately, we weren’t able to spend more time with them, as we had to get to our next showing at the University of Maryland in College Park. Two events in one day — a veritable double feature!

Here are photos from the Oldfields School screening.

George Mason University Recap and Photos


Autumn Gem at George Mason

Our third stop in three days (three of seven for the week) took us to George Mason University. We had the pleasure of being toured around the campus by Dr. Karl Zhang, Professor of Chinese Modern and Classical Languages at GMU. It turns out that Professor Zhang did his Ph.D. work at Stanford University the same time that I was an undergraduate. Alas, our paths never crossed, as he was a fuzzy in Lit and I was a techie in Symbolic Systems.

Professor Dan Liu arranged for her Chinese Literature class of about 60 people to watch Autumn Gem at the Student Union II on campus. So, add a third way for us to get students to watch our documentary: food, extra credit, or make it a requirement! Among the other guests at the screening was Ken Lee. His grandmother and grandaunt were heavily involved in the revolutionary movement around the time of Qiu Jin. There is a well-known story of the two where they hid weapons and other contraband in a wedding sedan chair while traveling through China.

Again, one of the more frequent questions we’ve received throughout these screenings is what happened to her family after her death. Strangely, in her entire work of several hundred poems, essays and writings, there’s no mention of her family.

It’s early morning right now on Thursday, October 15. We’re off to Oldfields School in Glencoe, MD, for a talk at the boarding school. Then, we travel back south to the University of Maryland, College Park. Tomorrow, we’ll be taking the train over to New Jersey, where we’ll be screening at Princeton. The memories of college applications and my own high school experience are coming back to me. But, that’s a story for tomorrow!

Until then, here are some photos from our showing at George Mason University!

University of Maryland-Baltimore County Recap and Photos


Autumn Gem at UMBC

We’ve discovered the secret to getting a good turnout at our university screenings: food and extra credit! About 90 students attended the screening at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. Big kudos to Constantine Vaporis, Anna Shields, Rebecca Boehling and all the UMBC professors who got their students to come to the showing. They also did a fantastic job flyer-ing the campus with our Autumn Gem posters.

We got a number of insightful comments and questions from the students. One of them asked how Qiu Jin could be considered a feminist when she was shown to be rejecting her female identity at the same time she fought for women’s rights. Another student wanted to know whether or not Qiu Jin was trying to emulate the male heroic figure or create a modern female heroic figure. There’s no right or wrong answers to these questions. They point to the conflict within Qiu Jin and touch upon why she’s still such a fascinating person to study today.

Professor Boehling made the comment that the actresses playing Qiu Jin both wore makeup during the recreation scenes, even those where Qiu Jin is shown to be wearing Western clothing. She asked whether it was a deliberate decision on our part to do this. The answer is no, we honestly didn’t think too much about makeup during the filming of the documentary. We certainly could have had a stylist on-set to help make the makeup look more natural and less feminine. There were some instances where I used Apple’s Color program to desaturate the colors on the young Qiu Jin’s face, but in general, I generally left things as they were shot.

Following the screening, we went out to dinner at Catonsville Gourmet with Julie, a high school classmate of mine, and Professor Vaporis. Like I said in my earlier posts, we’re really enjoying this trip as we’re able to reconnect with friends and family whom we haven’t seen in many moons. After the next screening at George Mason University, we’ll be heading over to our nation’s capitol to meet up with more friends from high school and college!

Here are photos from the screening at UMBC.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Screening Recap


Autumn Gem at UIUC

One of the first questions that I had when we arrived in Champaign, Illinois, was, “Is it Urbana-Champaign or Champaign-Urbana?” The University is called University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), but I saw buses with signs saying Champaign-Urbana. The reason for the hyphenated name is because the school is located between the twin cities of Champaign and Urbana. I believe I first head about UIUC through its association with Mosaic, the first graphical web browser.

Today’s screening of Autumn Gem was held at the Asian American Cultural Center and was sponsored by the Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies. There were about 30 people at the showing. With so many scholars and professors in the room, the questions and answers were again numerous and spirited. Rae and I have gotten a lot of great comments and suggestions for the film. Some of the notable questions included the following:

The song played during the ending credits is a famous song called Man Jiang Hong. The song is often (perhaps incorrectly, according to Wikipedia) attributed to the Chinese national hero Yue Fei, who was one of Qiu Jin’s heroes. Because we do not display the lyrics during the credits, however, there was confusion as to why we chose a song so strongly associated with Yue Fei to conclude the movie. It turns out that Qiu Jin wrote an alternate set of lyrics for Man Jiang Hong; Rae’s parents’ choir performed this version of the song for the film. Perhaps we will add these lyrics to a future screening version of Autumn Gem.

Some people thought that the film portrayed Qiu Jin as the first person who openly criticized the practice of foot binding. This is, of course, not true; over the long history of foot binding, there were many people who argued against the practice. Even after Qiu Jin’s death, many women continued to have their feet bound. As scholar Hu Ying states in the film, “Qiu Jin was not an original political thinker, she was more of a person on a mission.” We chose to focus on her efforts in Autumn Gem; we’ll probably add a slide to our introductory presentation about this.

Tomorrow morning, we fly out to Baltimore for a screening at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). Until then, here are some photos from the screening at Urbana-Champaign!

Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago


Lincoln Park Zoo

Following our screening at Columbia College, we spent a few days in Chicago with my cousin, Steve. Rae and I got caught up on work while preparing for the next slate of screenings; seven showings of Autumn Gem in the next six days! Tonight’s screening will be at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Tomorrow morning, we’re flying to Baltimore, Maryland for a screening at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

On Saturday, we had lunch over at The Bagel. The Mish-Mash Soup was really good and the Reuben sandwich that Jeff and I both ordered was huge! Usually, I can finish my meals, but I had to save half of the sandwich for the bus ride to Champaign on Sunday!

Read the rest of this post and see the photos »

Screening at Columbia College Chicago



This morning, we departed Madison, Wisconsin, in the seat of a Coach USA bus. Our destination was Chicago, Illinois, and Columbia College Chicago. Switching buses at Janesville, Rae and I slept most of the way to Chicago. When we arrived at Union Station, it was raining outside; good thing that we came prepared with our waterproof jackets and rain-resistant luggage. We took a taxi to Columbia College Chicago building at 1104 S. Wabash Avenue, which houses portions of the Film and Video Department as well as Film Row Cinema where Autumn Gem was later screened. There were many creative types milling around the dining commons, where they were holding a Meet and Greet. Student filmmakers pitched their ideas to their fellow classmates, hoping to snag a few to work on their semester film projects as art directors, cinematographers, casting directors, gaffers, and editors. We certainly could have used some help in those departments; during the production of Autumn Gem, we often felt stretched thin performing all of these tasks between the two of us.

We’ve had some great screening locales, and Film Row Cinema was no exception. Though we had another intimate screening, we had another spirited discussion afterwards. One of the audience members asked why we focused so much on scholars views of Qiu Jin instead of Chinese feminists views on her. While in Hangzhou by the Qiu Jin Monument, we did record some man-on-the-street interviews about people’s perception of Qiu Jin. In the end, however, we felt that those interviews did not fit well within the overall narrative of the film. In addition, adding them in would have extended the running time to over an hour, which we did not want to do. In the final cut, Autumn Gem is aimed at introducing the story of Qiu Jin to someone who has little or no knowledge of her. Perhaps in the future, we’ll include some clips from our Hangzhou interviews on this web site.

Following the screening, we met up with our friends, Ivan, Margaret, Steve, Jeff and Rina. We had authentic Chicago-style pizza for dinner at Lou’s. We’ll be staying in Chicago for a few days before heading out to Champaign-Urbana on Monday.

Here are photos from our screening at Columbia College.

Screening at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater


Autumn Gem at UW-W

Last night, we had a good turnout of about fifty students and faculty members at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Winther Hall 2001 had two screens, so if you crossed your eyes, you would have thought you were watching Autumn Gem in 3-D!

The first question asked from the crowd was how we financed the film; Autumn Gem was (and still is) solely financed by the two of us; that’s one reason why we’ve devoted a section of our presentation to fundraising. We’ve been able to recoup some of the production and marketing costs through private donations, but we’ve still got a long way to go. All donations to Autumn Gem are tax-deductible, since the film is fiscally sponsored by the San Francisco Film Society. If you’d like more information on supporting Autumn Gem, visit our support page.

Another question was whether or not Qiu Jin ever saw her family after leaving for Japan. The answer is no; she died without ever seeing them again. Two years after her death, her husband died. Their son was raised by the husband’s family, and the daughter was raised by Qiu Jin’s family. Her daughter was only two years old when Qiu Jin left, but she grew up and eventually wrote several biographies of her mother. We’re aware that Qiu Jin’s granddaughter lives somewhere in the United States, but we’ve been unable to locate her; if anyone reading this can get in touch with her, that would be great!

Here are some photos from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater screening of Autumn Gem.

Screening at University of Wisconsin-Madison



We had an intimate screening at the University of Wisconsin-Madison today; though there were not many people who showed up, those that did asked some great questions. One was whether Qiu Jin was viewed as more of a nationalist or feminist? In China and Taiwan, people are taught in school about Qiu Jin’s revolutionary work more so than her feminist work. In our film, we argue that you can’t really have one without the other. In order for China to become a strong nation, women had to rise up from their oppressed status. Another question was how we found out about Qiu Jin’s grand-nephew? We didn’t use Facebook, that’s for sure, but we did use existing networks of friends and their friends to locate him.

Earlier in the day, we walked around Madison, stopping by the State Capitol and the Overture Center for the Arts, which had a nice exhibition of Robert Rauschenberg’s Stoned Moon Series. Within a month after the moon landing in 1969, Rauschenberg created a series of 34 lithographs commemorating the event. What he painstakingly did back in 1969 was exactly what we can do so easily today in Photoshop using multiple layers and the overlay blending mode. Qiu Jin and Rauschenberg, in their own ways, were both pioneers of their times!

Following the screening, we went to the Kabul restaurant for dinner with Tanya, along with David from the Center of East Asian Studies (who co-sponsored the event) and my friend Erika from college. While it’s great to travel around the country screening our film, it’s equally rewarding to reconnect with friends and relatives whom we haven’t seen in years. Facebook lets us keep in touch with people virtually, but there’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction!

Here are the photos from the screening.

Santa Clara University Screening Recap


Autumn Gem at Santa Clara University

We had a great turnout at the Santa Clara University screening this evening, with nearly 120 people showing up on a Wednesday evening at Daly Science Center, Room 206. Big thanks go out to Barbara Molony, History Department chair at SCU, for organizing this event. Like at the UCSF screening, the demographic among the crowd was broad: students, extras in the movie, family, friends and people who heard about it in our articles in the various Bay Area newspapers. Thanks for coming out!

Yesterday, we received shipment of our official Autumn Gem DVDs. Now on sale at screenings (soon to be available for purchase online), these DVDs have the exact same cut of the film that we’re showing at our screenings. There have been seventeen cuts between the initial rough cut we made in October, 2008, to the final cut today. Special features include storyboards, production stills, and behind-the-scenes photos.

Here are some photos from the Santa Clara screening. Next stop for us is The University of Wisconsin-Madison. Check our screenings page for our complete October Midwest/East Coast tour dates. 16 cities in 25 days. Sounds like a MPG rating for a car!