September 20, 2022
BEIJING – Asian Pop-Up Cinema, a film festival showcasing diverse Asian cultures in the United States, kicked off its 15th season with a Chinese film on Sept 10 in packed Claudia Cassidy Theater at Chicago Cultural Center in downtown Chicago.
Screened at the opening ceremony was Sun Haipeng’s I Am What I Am, a lively, animated action comedy telling the story of three teenagers who are bullied and find their drive, joy and passion in lion dance.
The film is “a major breakthrough from most animated films produced in China that often narrate fantasy stories or revolve around themes related to mythological characters”, says Sophia Wong Boccio, founder and executive director of the film festival.
“This film focuses on the ancient cultural tradition of the lion dance, but sets in a contemporary and realistic context.”
Other Chinese films featured in the first week of the festival included Back to Love by Lan Hongchun, Embrace Again by Xue Xiaolu, Schemes in Antiques by Derek Kwok and Magical Craftsmanship of Suzhou, a documentary film about the handcrafts of Suzhou, Jiangsu province, directed by Sun Zengtian.
Back to Love is the first Chinese film made in the Teochew dialect and recounts a heartfelt story about parents in a rural area coming to terms with their children’s choices; Embrace Again provides a deep insight into how people respond to a pandemic at its early days; and Schemes in Antiques reveals some of the secrets behind the antiques business in China, Boccio says.
Peter Wrzesien, 30, from Chicago, learned about the film festival on social media and came with a friend to watch I Am What I Am.
“The film is wonderful and we get to experience a culture we wouldn’t have been exposed to,” Wrzensien says.
Deborah Siegel-Acevedo, 53, visited the cinema with her husband and 13-year-old daughter. “We are so moved by the film that we plan to come back to see other films at the festival,” she says.
A total of 31 films will be shown at the festival, which runs until Nov 6.