Los Angeles, California (The Hollywood Times) 11/08/2020 – Los Angeles- based Director Charles Xiuzhi Dong’s topical live-action short film tells the universal story of a mother who is willing to do whatever it takes to help her child. Having only recently begun its festival run the film has just been awarded the top Oscar Qualifying prize at Short Shorts Film Festival and Asia, in Japan. The film is about an eight-year-old Su Min and her mother reside in the slum of a metropolis in China, making ends meet by cleaning toilets and picking garbage. Su Min dreams to go to school someday. Marginalized by the school registration system, her mother tries to send her daughter to school at any cost. His short film, COOKIE HEART screened at numerous high profile international film festivals.
Your film, COOKIE HEART screened at numerous high profile international film festivals. What was important to you about this film?
I made Cookie Heart when I was a Junior at NYU. It was personally important because it was the first short film I’ve made. Somehow I had the crazy idea to shoot the entire thing in one take in the style of “Birdman.” The story is based on my roommate who is also the cinematographer of the film. Even though there are a million things I want to change, and things I wouldn’t do today. But it was the project that I learned the most from.
Tell us about your feature documentary debut, AN ANSHAN STORY.
The film is about my family history to uncover the truth about my grandpa’s ties with the revolutionaries of the left-wing during the cultural revolution. My family recounts the traumatic events after the revolution has ended. The film jumps between the past and present as they confront their old age in an aging city. We technically picture locked almost a year ago, but we are in progress of doing a significant recut. I am very excited to share this film with the rest of the world when it is ready.
How have you evolved as a Director? Do you have a favorite film?
As a Director, I think I have evolved correspondingly with my age. My first film “Cookie Heart” was more of an exercise where I wanted to play around with a fun, satirical story. The older I got, I wanted to approach more mature subject matters and make dramatic films. At the moment, for my next slate of projects, I would like to strike a balance between the two: Finding comedy in drama and drama in comedy. My favorite film, without a doubt, is “Cinema Paradiso.” It was one of my first encounters with Italian Cinema along with “Malèna.” Every time I watch “Paradiso,” it would leave me in a total wreck – overwhelmed and in floods of tears. It’s the kind of movie I would watch every time I feel like I want to give up on making movies. It would pull me back to reality, reminding me how bittersweet the nature of my job is.
AFTER CLASS has just been awarded the top Oscar Qualifying prize at Short Shorts Film Festival and Asia, in Japan. Tell us about the film.
I made “After Class” almost two years ago in Shenzhen. It is a film about a poor single mother trying to send her daughter to school. We premiered the film at Santa Barbara International Film Festival earlier the year and have run the festival circuit since. Unexpectedly, we won the Best Short Awards at the Asia Internal Competition at Short Shorts. I am very grateful for how far the film has gone since the day we started embarking on this grueling shoot two years ago. We’re in the process of launching an Oscar campaign and hope to be on the shortlist in February.
Why is this film timely?
No matter what period in history, what part of the world, and what socio-economic class, the love of a mother is a universal theme. And especially now, we live in a time of unpredictability, we need stories of love and sacrifice.
Can you share a powerful scene?
I personally love the scene when the mother steals money for the first time, to me that is the most powerful scene in the film, it’s a moment of choice, it’s a moment of true motherhood. It’s the moment when people do unacceptable things in order to help the ones they love.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of every crew member who was working on this project. It was not an easy film to pull off. From the moment we prepped this, we faced countless problems from locations to casting to budget. But everybody had so much faith in this project. I am just very grateful for my cast and crew for supporting me along the way.
Personal website: charlesxiuzhidong.com