Film takes on Chi­nese stereo­types in US

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By NIU YUE in New York Lu Hui­quan in New York con­trib­uted to this story.

What have Chi­nese stu­dents learned from sev­eral years in the United States?

They “ma­jor in lux­ury cars”, ac­cord­ing to a re­port in Bloomberg Busi­nessweek in De­cem­ber 2013, about Chi­nese stu­dents buy­ing large num­bers of lux­ury cars in the US.

“Most Chi­nese stu­dents study­ing abroad are not rich at all,” said Jiang Ying, a 27-year old fash­ion mar­keter in New York. “Even if some do come from af­flu­ent fam­i­lies, they are also work­ing hard.”

To fight the stereo­types, the Ford­ham Univer­sity MBA grad­u­ate made a 30-minute movie, Study Abroad, that will premiere Fri­day night at the He­len Mills Theater in Man­hat­tan.

Based on true sto­ries Jiang col­lected, the film aims to re­veal other as­pects of Chi­nese stu­dents’ life in the US, such as find­ing an apart­ment and mak­ing Amer­i­can friends.

“We are not say­ing whether Chi­nese stu­dents are good or bad,” said Jiang, who is orig­i­nally from Shanxi prov­ince. “We list you facts, and you form your thoughts based on what you see,” she said.

The movie was in­spired by the mur­der of a Chi­nese cou­ple in Cal­i­for­nia in 2012. Early on the morn­ing of April 11, 2012, two 23-year-old grad­u­ate stu­dents, Qu Ming and Wu Ying, were shot to death near the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia cam­pus in Los An­ge­les, while sit­ting in a BMW car.

One As­so­ci­ated Press re­port said that Chi­nese stu­dents “typ­i­cally skew wealth­ier, be­cause they have to be able to af­ford a school’s tu­ition with­out fi­nan­cial aid”.

Chi­nese me­dia fo­cused largely on the sen­sa­tional theme of a man and a woman in a lux­ury ve­hi­cle after mid­night.

“I feel very shocked by how peo­ple look at this,” said Jiang. “It’s about two Chi­nese stu­dents killed, not about whether they are in a good car or not.”

The BMW turned out to be sec­ond-hand, with 80,000 miles on it and worth around $10,000. Sub­se­quent me­dia re­ports showed that the vic­tims were not par­tic­u­larly wealthy.

Jiang met Yang Yung-jen, a 28-year-old MFA can­di­date at the City Col­lege of New York, in De­cem­ber 2012. They se­lected three sto­ries out of 20 po­ten­tial ideas and came up with a screen­play. As the only per­son on the team with pro­fes­sional train­ing, Yang worked as di­rec­tor, cam­era­man and ed­i­tor; Jiang cov­ered most of the ex­penses, which came to a few thou­sand dol­lars, and she has been strug­gling to pay back her credit card.

“It was a low-bud­get movie, but we tried our best to make it,” Yang said. “Our whole team had a dream for this movie.”

The pro­duc­tion took more than a year, as most of the crew had full-time jobs with only week­ends avail­able.

“I had to wake up early to work, and even ear­lier to make the movie,” said Chen Wen­jie, a lead ac­tress in the movie and a full-time ad­ver­tis­ing and sales plan­ner.

There are more than 260,000 Chi­nese stu­dents in the US, mak­ing up 30 per­cent of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents in the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to the In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion.

How­ever, com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween Chi­nese and Amer­i­can stu­dents re­mains limited, said Niu Muge, a Columbia Univer­sity Jour­nal­ism School master’s de­gree can­di­date and co-founder of Chan­nel C, an on­line video chan­nel air­ing seg­ments about Chi­nese stu­dents’ thoughts and lives.

“Americans value di­ver­sity, but if there were no com­mu­ni­ca­tion, di­ver­sity would never be re­al­ized,” she said. “There are some mis­un­der­stand­ings about us. Peo­ple think we are nerds or re­ally rich kids.”

They also are mis­un­der­stood in China, said Jiang.

“Prob­lems we en­counter are very dif­fi­cult to de­scribe to oth­ers,” she said. “For ex­am­ple, you need a lot of skills that are never taught in China to do a good pre­sen­ta­tion. But oth­ers would just say your English isn’t good enough when there is a prob­lem.”

After its New York premiere, Study Abroad will be screened at Bos­ton Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia in 2015, and also in Beijing and Taiyuan in Shanxi prov­ince.


Yang Yung-jen (left), di­rec­tor of StudyAbroad, and Jiang Ying, the movie’s pro­ducer, with a movie poster prior to the film’s premier in New York on Fri­day.

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