Wang Xiao-yen

Wang Xiao-yen
b. 1959, Beijing
Film director
Living in San Francisco but shooting her films in both the United States and China, Wang Xiao-yen gracefully treads between two cultures and may be the only ‘Fifth Generation’ director (see Fifth Generation (film directors)) to have become a ‘Chinese-American filmmaker’. Wang was among the younger students attending the Beijing Film Academy when it reopened in 1978. She completed her studies at the San Francisco Academy of Arts (1985–6), arriving in the USA with $38 in her pocket (the amount allowed by the Chinese government) and partaking of the ‘immigrant experience’ through a variety of menial, illegal jobs.
In 1989 she created the Beijing-San Francisco Film Group, a small independent production company.
For her first film, she chose to shoot in English and to express novel cross-cultural concerns. The Blank Point (1991) is a sensitive documentary about the lives of three transsexuals, but also a meditation on the filmmaker’s bewilderment at the possibility of sex-change operations in the West. In 1993, without a permit, she returned to Beijing to shoot The Monkey Kid (Hou San’r, completed in 1995), based on her experiences as a mischievous nine-year-old during the Cultural Revolution while her parents had been ‘sent down’ for ‘re-education’. After years of fundraising, she was able to direct the second part of her autobiography, Discombobbled (Wo, Yun La, 2003): a young artist is torn between her old life in China and her new life in the United States, between memories and hope—floating, fighting and finding herself between two worlds.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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