One-on-one with filmmaker Dong Yuxiang on his documentary 7999 Fast Ln, and more.
DONG Yuxiang (born 1990, Wujiang, Jiangsu Province, China) is an art, educational, and social worker. His practices and research focus on the exploration of film and media art as ethnographic methods in the Anthropocene.He received an honorable Mention of the PhMuseum Photography Grant (2023) and was a finalist of the Three Shadows Photography Award (2016). He has exhibited at Hermitage Museum & Gardens, Norfolk, VA (US), OCAT Institute, Beijing (China); Verzasca Foto, Canton of Ticino (Switzerland); Jakarta International Photo Festival, Jakarta, (Indonesia); PhMuseum Days, PhMuseum, Bologna (Italy); and other international venues. He is currently teaching at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
iFilmFestival: Tell us a bit about your most important film so far.
YD: “7999 Fast Ln, my first documentary feature, focuses on a young Chinese artist who recently finished art school and decided to apply for an artist visa to stay in the US during the COVID-19 Pandemic. It closely observes the visa application process started in April 2020 and further examines this process in the backdrops of COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, Stop Anti-Asian Hate, and the 2020 presidential election.”
iFilmFestival: What were the key challenges making it?
YD: “The documentary has a very broad background of the sociopolitical turmoil in the United States over the past three years. However, the documentary also has a very personal focus: it follows one of my own artist friends. Due to Covid, the film is basically entirely made in the house we used to rent together, in the suburb of Richmond VA. So, the key challenge is how to elaborate the entanglement of the political and the personal in a limited space at a unique time.”
iFilmFestival: What’s one aspect that you’re particularly proud of?
YD: “The documentary is not a cliche story of a struggling and hardworking immigrant artist. However, it provides audiences with a refreshing view to experience each milestone, setback, and daily event in the character's journey.”
iFilmFestival: How did you get involved in filmmaking?
YD: “I studied photography in college in a film school in Beijing. Since then, I have been making short films and videos. 7999 Fast Ln is my very first feature documentary.”
iFilmFestival: What new projects are you working on or are you hoping to work on in the future?
YD: “I want to make an ethnofiction film or a series of videos to explore the possibilities of overcoming technological jargon for ordinary people to discuss our shared future of genetic editing. In October 2018, the birth of twin girls, Lulu and Nana, attracted global attention and controversy because they were the world’s first genetically modified babies. However, this case of human genetic editing has been mostly silent in the public sphere, with occasional debates in the circles of scientists and biologists, despite the fact that the case will profoundly impact the fate of human beings. I hope that the filmmaking could explore how we think, feel, sense, talk, and make at the singularity that technology can change human DNA.”
Trailer: 7999 Fast Ln
iFilmFestival: What role do film festivals play?
YD: “Today, film festivals play an important role as the channel of distribution and communication. At film festivals, we encounter films of different languages, cultures, and countries. In a short period of festivals, these films give us the opportunity to hear a rich diversity of voices from the globe”
iFilmFestival: What is your advice to filmmakers tackling the festival circuit?
YD: “It is always a process. If you get selected, take the opportunity to meet people, then come back and continue to make new films. If you get rejected, just move on.”
iFilmFestival: How do you see the future of film?
YD: “It is difficult to predict the future, especially with the fast advancement of various film technologies. With the recent leap forward of machine learning, we can use generative artificial intelligence to produce video and animation footages without traditional film techniques. However, I think that despite technological development, some fundamental elements of film will always be important, such as narrative, performance, point of view, and others.”
iFilmFestival: Which filmmaker do you admire and why?
YD: “Shao Yuzhen is an amateur filmmaker. Since 2005, she made a series of documentaries about lives of local residents in her village - Shaziying Village, Shunyi District, an agricultural area on the outskirts of Beijing. I admire her courage of making these documentaries and the candid style with strong sense of community in her works is also very inspiring.”
iFilmFestival: What film have you recently seen that you have admired in one way or another?
YD: “I recently saw Tuan Andrew Nguyen's films and videos at his new museum exhibition "Tuan Andrew Nguyen: Radiant Remembrance" in New York City, including "Because No One Living Will Listen," "The Unburied Sounds of a Troubled Horizon" and "The Specter of Ancestors Becoming." These films and videos draw conceptual threads from across the Global South via the interconnected histories of Vietnam, Senegal, Morocco, France, and the United States to spark a dialogue on memory, repression, resistance, and empowerment.”
iFilmFestival: Thank you Dong Yuxiang for answering our questions!
Interview by iFilmFestival on 21/07/2023.