Saratoga Public Library Screening Recap and Photos

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Autumn Gem at the Saratoga Public Library

On Sunday, the Chi Am Circle club sponsored a screening of Autumn Gem at the Saratoga Public Library. Ninety people were in attendance for the screening, including Qiu Jin’s Great Grandnephew, Charles Fan, whom we first met at the Willow Glen screening back in March. Now that we’re back from our Spring 2010 Tour, we have time to start planning our next steps with the film: more screenings, interviews, a study guide for the Institutional version of the DVD and the iPad application.

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Red Emma’s Bookstore Screening and Recap

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Screening at St. John's Church in Baltimore

After we had screened in the Baltimore area during our last tour, we got an email from Red Emma’s Bookstore asking us if we could set up a screening with them. While we weren’t able to schedule anything in our Fall 2010 tour, we made sure to contact them for this one.

The film showing was held at St. John’s United Methodist Church, which Red Emma’s uses for performance-related events. It definitely was the most unique place we’ve screened Autumn Gem in! In some ways, it reminded me of the church from the John Woo film, The Killer. I was half expecting doves to start flying around the church when the film started!

We had an eclectic group of about 30 people at the screening, ranging from students at Johns Hopkins to a teacher and students at College of Notre Dame at Maryland to San Francisco Bay Area residents who were in-town visiting! We had come with Larry, Caitlin and Caitlin’s father to the screening. Afterwards, we drove down to Red Emma’s for a quick bite to eat. We noticed that Qiu Jin was listed among the various F-Bomb feminist revolutionaries in the bookstore’s main window.

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Stanford University Screening Recap and Photos

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Autumn Gem at Stanford University

With over a month to prepare for our Stanford screening tonight, we made sure we got the word out about the film through as many channels as possible. The Center for East Asian Studies was the co-sponsor for the event, and they helped flyer the campus, email various mailing lists, and list the screening on Stanford’s Events web site. Stefan from the Palo Alto Independent Films Group brought a sizeable contingent from his Meetup group to the showing. Another Meetup group brought a large group of Asian professionals. This week’s article in the Palo Alto Weekly also produced a big draw tonight. By my estimations, there were over 150 people of all ages at tonight’s screening of Autumn Gem. The lower portion of Cubberley was so packed it reminded me when I was a frosh taking Humanities in the very same auditorium! Thanks to everyone who came out to see our film!

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City College Screening Recap and Photos

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We had a couple of firsts at our Autumn Gem screening at City College of San Francisco yesterday. The place was packed, thanks to the combined efforts of the Asian Studies, Asian American Studies, Cinema and Women’s Studies Departments; we had over 90 people in attendance. The second first is one that I’m not all that proud about; we had our first technical mishap during the screening of the film!

Normally, we play the movie off of Rae’s MacBook Pro. Everything was going fine until the midway point in the film when the video completely froze and the audio started repeating! QuickTime X was completely unresponsive and force quitting (command-option-escape) would not work. Fortunately, I had also brought my own MacBook Pro as a backup for this very situation. While Rae answered a few questions from the crowd, I quickly got my MBP set up with the projector and sound system. The rest of the screening went off without any major issues. Phew!

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University of Pennsylvania Screening Recap and Photos

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Rae and Adam outside the Annenberg Center at UPenn.

Our last stop was at the University of Pennsylvania. Following the screening at the Evergreen Senior Club in Delaware, Uncle Don drove us to Philadelphia. World Series fever was in the air, as we saw many banners for the Phillies, as well as people sporting Phillies jackets, hats and shirts.

We had an intimate screening, similar to our first stop on this tour in Madison, Wisconsin. Despite the small size, the audience was very enthusiastic about the film; I bet the cold weather and World Series fever contributed to the small showing; next time, we’ll mobilize and get those Women’s Studies and Chinese Literature professors to require their students to watch the film! Rae and I have definitely taken notes on how to get more people in attendance at our screenings; we’ll be testing out our theories in the ones coming up at Stanford (November 30) and Berkeley (December 3).

Among the audience members was my Stanford friend, Andreea. The two of us were the Theme Associates in La Maison Française our senior year. I have fond memories working with her on in-house classes, wine and cheese nights, and movie nights at the French House. Good times those were back in 1996-1997! Andreea is now an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the university. Her field of research is in Several Complex Variables, which is one complex variable too much for me!

On this tour, we’ve had all sorts of cuisine — Japanese, Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Kosher, East Coast Seafood, Afghan, American, Indian, Farmer’s Market, Dorm Food, Mediterranean, Chicago-style Pizza, New York Street Food and Vietnamese — but not African. Following the screening, Uncle Don, Andreea, Rae and I had dinner at Abyssinia, an Ethiopian Restaurant near the UPenn campus. Though I really wanted to get a Philly Cheese Steak from some street vendor, the lure of injera and doro wot was too hard to pass up!

And with the UPenn screening, we were done! 17 tour stops in 25 days! Rae and I were supremely tired but very happy with the outcome of our tour. Recap of the entire experience to come soon, but in the meantime, some photos from UPenn!

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.

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.