Evergreen Senior Club Recap and Photos

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Evergreen Senior Club screening of Autumn Gem

About two weeks ago, Rae’s dad told us to call one of his friends from college who now lives in Delaware. Professor Charles Ih (from the University of Delaware) was very interested in showing Autumn Gem to the Evergreen Senior Club at the Chinese American Community Center in Hockessin, Delaware. The only time that we had available was on the October 28th, our final tour date. We arranged to have the screening at 11:00 am, which would give us enough time to drive over to Philadelphia for our 4:00 pm screening.

We got back late the previous evening from our New York screening. Sleeping only a few hours, we woke up bright and early to drive two and a half hours from New Jersey to Delaware. The drive fortunately was uneventful, unlike the rain storm we drove through coming back from Boston the previous week. The CACC building also houses a Montessori School and Child Care Center during the weekdays. We saw lots of little kids and their parents running around during the screening.

From the CACC web site, the “Evergreen Senior Club is open to Chinese American Community Center (CACC) members 55 years old or older. The club meets weekly at CACC on Wednesday from 9 AM to 6 PM. The mission of the Evergreen Club is to provide activities and services to support and enhance the quality of life of its members and to promote Chinese culture.” When we arrived, the members were busy singing; I bet they enjoyed listening to the three choral pieces in Autumn Gem.

We had a terrific response at the club. Since the club is comprised of people from our parents’ generation, many of them already knew the story of Qiu Jin. There was one gentleman, however, who grew up near where Qiu Jin lived, but who had never heard of her until now! Better late than never! We always get a lively response from audience members familiar with Qiu Jin’s life. Many of them only knew about her nationalist work rather than her feminist work, but they all agree that she is a heroine to the Chinese people.

Rae and I are often asked what motivated us to do Autumn Gem. Growing up as American Born Chinese (ABC), we had never know about Qiu Jin; the idea of a strong, female hero isn’t the first thing that pops in one’s mind when thinking about China. Thus, bringing her story to the Western world and to people from our generation was one of our biggest goals. Doing the film also helped us connect with our own past and the past of our parents and their parents. This has been one of the more rewarding benefits — we’ve been able to develop ever closer relationships with our parents.

Following the screening, we had lunch with the Evergreen members before driving an hour over to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for our final stop on the 2009 Midwest/East Coast tour of Autumn Gem.

Here are photos from the Evergreen Senior Club screening.

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New York Screening Recap and Photos

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Autumn Gem in New York

During our Pasadena screening, we received a very enthusiastic response from one of the audience members. Ann Lau told us that Qiu Jin was one of her role models and she was very excited to have seen the movie. She was instrumental in setting up our screening in New York. Putting us in touch with Peggy Chane from the Visual Artists Guild, we secured Tuesday’s screening at Tribeca Film Center in record time. Peggy is a great marketer, and she brought a nice sized crowd to the showing. It was also great to see friends and co-workers — Christine, Gaelen, Anand and Sid — on Tuesday night. The event was co-sponsored by the VAG and New York Women in Film and Television. All in all, about 40 people braved the wet weather to watch Autumn Gem.

Tribeca Film Center, as one might expect, has a great projector and audio system. We heard things in the movie that are usually muffled by lesser sound systems! I debated between showing the movie from the DVD or from my laptop. While the uprezzer for the DVD was really good, I still saw more detail from my laptop’s 720p version of the film. So, in the end, we went with the laptop.

There was a big discussion during the Q&A regarding the similarities and/or differences between foot binding and cosmetic surgery. Some in the crowd felt that there was no correlation between the two, arguing that cosmetic surgery is elective whereas foot binding was forced upon women. Others felt that societal pressures might have transformed foot binding into something women felt that they needed to have done on them.

After the screening, several of us went to the Greenwich Street Tavern for drinks. We didn’t stay that long because we had to meet up with Joon-Mo at the famous Joe’s Shanghai. We’ve heard from many people that Joe’s Shanghai has the best shu lam baos. The dumplings were indeed very good, large and juicy. It was good to catch up with Joon-Mo, who’s starting his first year at the Business School at Georgetown. We met up with Sid in Shanghai when we began our filming of Autumn Gem in February of 2008. Now, here we were a year later halfway across the world!

Here are photos from the Visual Artists Guild and New York Women in Film and Television screening.

Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center Screening Recap and Photos

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Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center - 885 Washington Street

Our third week on tour concluded with a screening at the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center in Boston, Massachusetts. The BCNC is celebrating their 40th anniversary of serving the Chinatown community this year, and the organization is having a celebration gala in a couple of weeks on Saturday, November 7, 2009 at the center’s two buildings at 885 Washington Street and 38 Ash Street. When Rae and I arrived, we initially went to the Washington address and were confused when we couldn’t find anyone who knew about the screening. Fortunately, a passerby told us to go across the street to the other BCNC location. Apologies to anyone who came to the screening who first went to the Washington address!

After setting up the projector and tinkering with the image and color settings, we were ready to go around 12:40. Following an introduction by Carmen Chan from the BCNC, Rae and I gave our 10-minute presentation before starting the film. We had to duck out during the screening to be interviewed by a reporter from the World Journal. We were also interviewed by the Sing Tao Daily after the screening. We’ll try to pick up copies of the newspaper when we’re in New York tomorrow.

We had our most spirited discussion during the Q&A session. There was considerable debate among the attendees about the role of feminism versus nationalism in Qiu Jin’s life. Which was more important of the two? Could the two exist separately or were they intricately entwined within each other. This is the question that scholars have been asking for years about Qiu Jin, and there is no right or wrong answer; it’s up to interpretation and one’s own opinion! It was great to see the guests debating each other during the Q&A; it shows that people are reacting to the film! Here’s a video from the discussion:

In addition there was one scholar in the room who pointed out some potential mistakes in the film that we may want to address in a future screening (and DVD) version of Autumn Gem.

Following the screening, we had a late lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant with my high school buddy, David, and his friends, Jessica, Dawn and Arnold. Aside from my friend Rod in Denver, David is the person whom I’ve known the longest — since elementary school! We reminisced about Spreckels, Country Day, San Diego, playing pool, and about old friends now in high places. I’ve said it many times on this blog, but one of the great benefits of taking Autumn Gem on tour is that we’ve been able to see so many of our friends and relatives. That alone is worth the price of admission!

After lunch, Rae and I braved hard rain and strong winds over nearly five and a half hours as we drove back to New Jersey from Boston. We’re now on the homestretch for this tour, with three more screenings on the docket. We’ve added another screening in Delaware at the Chinese American Community Center in Hockessin on Wednesday. On Monday, we’ll be spending our free day in New York City. Any ideas on what to visit?

Here are photos from the screening at the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center. Additional photos are provided by Anh Ðào Kolbe.

University of Massachusetts, Boston Screening Recap and Photos

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UMass Boston Autumn Gem

On Friday, we had a great time at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, where we participated in several seminars before our screening of Autumn Gem at 4:00 pm.

At most of the screenings on this trip, we don’t have too much time to wander around the school and talk with the students. We have typically arrived at the venue an hour before the screening in order to test the projector, screen and speakers. Following the screenings, we return to the road to reach the next venue. This is why Rae says, “It feels like we’re in a band… minus the roadies!” At UMass Boston, however, we had scheduled two additional events before the screening, giving us time to connect with the faculty and students. Kudos go to Shirley Tang, Professor of Asian American Studies and American Studies at UMass Boston, for organizing these extra events. It’s something that we’ll definitely suggest to other schools that we show Autumn Gem at in the future.

At noon, Rae and I conducted a martial arts demonstration at the Campus Center. Rae performed her mantis form and taught wushu basics, whereas I went through the first few steps of the Tai Chi 24 form. Here’s a video of the two of us performing and teaching, along with student reactions following the workshop:

Afterwards, we visited a core set of Asian American Studies students and talked about our background and how we got to where we are today. These students had all completed their own short films, many of which tackled very personal topics. I hope that Rae and I were able to inspire the students to continue their media projects and create their own feature-length documentaries on the subjects they care deeply about! Shirley was saying that the program encourages students to create media more than they consume media; I heartedly agree with that!

The screening was well received, with over 65 people in attendance. Like at Whitewater, the room had dual projectors, so everyone in the long classroom had a good view of the film. The crowd asked some good questions that were well-documented by Professor Peter Kiang; we’ll try to get these up in the future (and add to our growing FAQ list).

Today, we have a final screening in Massachusetts at the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center; after that, we’ll be returning to New Jersey for the final leg of our four-week trip.

Here are photos from the U-Mass Boston screening.

Brown University Screening and Recap

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Autumn Gem at Brown University

During our East Coast scholar interview trip last June, we also interviewed Professor Lingzhen Wang at Brown University. Following our stop at Connecticut College, Rae and I drove up to Providence, Rhode Island on Wednesday afternoon. This is now the fifth time I’ve been in Providence, having come here as a high school student to visit the University, twice for Autumn Gem, once for a wedding, and finally while traveling with singer-songwriter Vienna Teng on her East Coast Tour in 2003. Unfortunately, in all these instances, I’ve only been in Rhode Island for a day or two at most, so I really can’t say that I’ve spent quality time in our nation’s smallest state.

The Fall colors are really making the East Coast look lovely this time of year; it certainly doesn’t hurt that the weather is similar to a brisk California winter day. It’s good that we planned our Midwest and East Coast tour before the snow arrives; I don’t think we would have been able to make every stop on this tour in such weather.

I’ve learned that my grandfather once attended Brown University as an undergraduate. It’s been told to me that he transferred to MIT because he couldn’t pass the swimming test at Brown! Walking by the buildings, I wondered what it would have been like for him to be in the United States back in the roaring twenties.

Wilson Hall was a great venue for our screening; the projector and screen were top notch in quality and made Autumn Gem look great. The four sponsors of the film — Department of East Asian Studies, Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women, and Cogut Center for the Humanities — did a great job of advertising the screening with posters throughout the campus. We saw students from nearby RISD, people from the outside community, and various faculty members at our screening of 45 people.

Questions came fast and furious in the Q&A session. Some notable ones included:

  • How can you differentiate between the myth and reality of Qiu Jin?
  • Was she familiar with American and Japanese feminists during her time.
  • Was she aware of the women’s suffrage movement in the US?
  • What is the status of women today in China?
  • How did your research (primarily English-based) influence the process of developing the film? Were we losing something in the translation?

Following the screening, we drove over to Boston, MA for a showing and seminars today at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. We’ll have an open date on Friday and another screening at the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center on Saturday. Until then, here’s photos from the Brown University screening!

Connecticut College Screening Recap and Photos

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Nearly a year and a half ago, Rae, JP, and I went to the East Coast to interview two scholars, Amy Dooling from Connecticut College and Lingzhen Wang from Brown University. Three weeks into our Midwest and East Coast tour, we have returned to both of these schools for screenings of Autumn Gem. Our first stop this week was at Professor Dooling’s Connecticut College. Driving around New London, I remembered the roads to get to the university. The weather was a lot different this time around; back in June, 2008, it was overcast and raining, but in October, 2009, blue skies and autumn leaves greeted us. As we were walking around campus, we saw people playing ultimate frisbee, soccer, and running. We haven’t been exercising as much as we would have liked on this trip; I think I’ve gained a couple of pounds, pounds that I’ll have to burn back off when we return to the Bay Area next week!

It was great to see Professor Dooling again in person; watching the documentary over and over — both in our house during editing and at screening venues across the country — we feel like we’ve been seeing her a lot over the past year and a half! She brought to the screening a sizable contingent from Chinese classes. Several other students and faculty members were also present at the screening, which was held at the Blaustein Humanities Center. Also present was my friend from high school. Melissa’s been out in Connecticut since college, and the last time I saw her was back in 1996 when I visiting France and England during Winter Quarter. Catching up with friends has been great, and there’s a few more people that I’m looking forward to seeing at our Boston, New York, and Pennsylvania screenings.

Rae and I received notification of the first PayPal payment for the Autumn Gem DVD today! Thanks to A. Gung for being the first buyer of our DVD!

Tomorrow, we’ll be leaving Connecticut to go up I-95 over to Brown University, where we have a screening at 4:00 pm. Following the screening, we’ll drive further north to Boston. After Saturday’s screening at the Boston Chinese Neighborhood Center, we’ll be heading back down I-95 to New Jersey. The finish line is in sight for this tour, but we’ve still got several more stops along the way!

Here are photos from the Connecticut College screening of Autumn Gem!

New Jersey Chinese Community Center Recap and Photos

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Autumn Gem at New Jersey Chinese Community Center

Our final stop in our seven screenings in six days week was at the New Jersey Chinese Community Center. Thanks to Tien-Fang Hou for bringing a great crowd to the screening. Coincidentally, Tien-Fang’s grandson trains at the same wushu school as Melissa, the girl who played the young Qiu Jin in our film. Small world! All in all, we had about 75 people at the event, which was well organized by my Uncle Don.

Screening venues have varied on this tour; we’ve shown the films in theaters, classrooms, and auditoriums. Whenever possible, we have tried to stagger the chairs in the latter two to reduce the amount of heads moving laterally back and forth to read the subtitles. Often times, the people in front are blocking the view of the captions in the film. I really liked how Slumdog Millionaire moved the subtitles away from the traditional spot in the bottom third of the screen. Though I don’t know if it would be effective in our film, given the amount of text being displayed on-screen, but it’s something I certainly keep wondering about. With films, there’s always that “one last change” that you’d like to make. Eventually, however, you have to put your foot down and say, “No more changes!”

We’ll have four screenings coming up this week. Connecticut College, Brown, University of Massachusetts, Boston, and Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center. Though it’s a far cry from the seven in six days, we’ll be traveling a much greater distance. We’re renting a car tomorrow morning to head up from New Jersey to Connecticut. Almost a year and a half ago, we went to interview Professors Amy Dooling and Lingzhen Wang for the film. Now, in just a few days, we’ll be screening at their respective colleges!

Here are photos from the Saturday night screening at the New Jersey Chinese Community Center.