Students Make Movie About Death Of Two Chinese Students
"It is a film more about dream and hope than sorrow and tragedy," said Chen, a USC graduate who studied computer science.
On April 11, Ming Qu and Ying Wu, two Chinese students studying at USC were shot in the middle of the night while they were driving home, not to far from the USC campus.
Students and the Chinese community were shocked at the brutality of the shooting.
However, what earned even more indignation was the heavily distorted reports by China’s media which depicted these two victims to be extravagant and spoiled children called “the second generation of the rich.” The media portrayed these students as reckless and spoiled, all because they were driving a BMW.
"When I saw all those far-from-fact reports and malicious comments made by readers, I felt very sad. I suddenly realized we Chinese students studying abroad were such a fragile and misunderstood group both alienated with China's society and easily fall to victims of people's verbal attacks," said He, a second-year Communication Management graduate student of USC.
That was why He and Chen, with a dozen of other Chinese students at USC, made a 15-minute documentary called Our Voices.
The film was made less than one week after the shooting happened.
The documentary immediately went viral on the Internet in China. It received more than one million hits in less than a week.
"So many people, including a lot of celebrities watched it, commented it and shared it, drawing enormous attention to the shooting and gradually make people fooled by the media to rethink what exactly happened," He said.
"The documentary mainly focuses on the hard facts about the shooting, the two victims, the distorted coverage on the two students by China's media, and how we Chinese students at USC reacted and responded to the shooting and coverage," said Chen. "After the success of the documentary, thoughts about making a story telling people the real life of the young couple victims enjoying their love and pursuing their dreams gradually emerged in my mind."
He and Chen said they also wanted to tell a story about the life the victims led, which is why they decided to make a full length film later.
"It is like a meteor, when they vanish, we feel saddened, but we shall never forget about how beautifully they were shining when they are alive. That is exactly what the film City of Dreams is about. It is about love, hope and dream, hence the name," said Chen.
It took them three grueling months to create the film.
"We have met a multitude of difficulties, professionals told us that the complexity of the story and how we are going to make it were far beyond our imagination. We didn't have enough financial support to it. We had a hard time finding perfect places to shoot it, and we needed more actors," said Yuxi He.
They managed to overcome these difficulties, though, and create the film.
"We received fund(ing) both from alumni, organizations and corporations. We were also provided a great deal of help in land using. The actor shortage problem is also quickly solved when we made more efforts in publicizing this film, Hundreds of people approached to us for an audition. Moreover, with the help of some organizations, we found really excellent children actors, too," He said.
He and Chen led a team of around 25 volunteers who spent a week to finish the 20-minute film. On Oct. 17, the trailer for City of Dreams was released. The film is scheduled to premiere in November.
Chen said that 60 percent of the film is based on facts.
"We have done in-depth interviews with people with close connection with the two victims like their families, their best friends, their roommates, and their landlords," said Jiazheng Chen.
"We don't touch upon a lot of details about the shooting other than what we have known from the police. Since the case has not been closed, making any assumption on that part will be improper," He said.
Half a year has passed since the tragedy took place, and the filmmakers don't want its importance to fade.
"We feel so strongly about this film partly because we want people to continue to pay attention to what has happened and what has changed since it happened," Chen said.
He added that the film was meant to remind people not only of the tragedy, but also of the lives that were cut short.
"It is the power to propel us to go on actualizing the unfulfilled dreams of Ying Wu and Ming Qu," He said.
Reach Staff Reporter Zhao Chen here.
Editor's Note posted Oct. 30: The original version of this article incorrectly spelled the name of Yuxi He as Yujia Xe.