The University of Iowa

Film about international student experiences in U.S. will be shown April 22

April 19th, 2012

M.F.A. film student presents screening of thesis project

By Jordan Montgomery, The Daily Iowan

Lewis Liú relocated from China to the United States with a Hollywood dream. But during his three years in film school, his Hollywood dream met reality.

Liú's M.F.A. film thesis, Drifting in Los Angeles: Chinese Students, Film Schools, and Hollywood Dreams, will be screened at 8 p.m. April 22 in the Bijou. Admission is free and open to the public.

After an expedition to visit his friends who are film students at the University of Southern California, Liú found that film school in Hollywood isn't the heaven young filmmakers imagine. And Californians were treating his Chinese friends as second-class citizens.

"I had this fantasy about the U.S. film schools, and I think that's a common thing about our generation of people," said the native of Wuhan, China. "We all want to come here and live the American dream. But we get here and start to understand that America is not a heaven. There are issues that we've never experienced before."

Liú's documentary features foreign film students encountering inequality at their respective university's and outside of their university's community. But Liú clarifies that these problems exist all over the United States.

"Just the other day on the bus, a drunk kid asked us how to say 'how are you doing' in Chinese," he said. "I asked him why he wanted to learn Chinese. He said he wants to learn Chinese 'so I can say f**k you, this is America to all of you guys.' "

UI graduate student Charles Woodard said that University of Iowa students should see Liú's film because he sees parallels between the students in the film and UI students.

"I think it has some resonance with the populations with this community like the one in LA, because we also have a large Asian community in this school," the second-year graduate student said. "Students here may not know what foreign students go through, so I think that if you want a good perspective on that, you should see it."

UI Associate Professor Sasha Waters Freyer, Liú's film thesis adviser, said the young filmmaker has brought new cultural perspectives to the UI film program.

"I've been teaching this since 2000, and this is the first time we've had someone from China in the M.F.A. program," she said. "It was a really rewarding experience to have his professional training and cultural background added to the mix. The M.F.A. program is really small, and each person brings their own perspective; it was nice to have him."

Drifting in Los Angeles sheds light on the kind discrimination that some students may choose to ignore on the UI campus.

"It's an interesting film for any international student to see because I think they will be able to relate to that perspective," Waters Freyer said. "It is also important for Iowa students to put themselves in a foreign students' shoes to see what their experience is like here at the university."