‘Something Important’ happening for Chinese filmmakers


Yidi Li, a creative producing graduate student, curated the “Something Important” short film festival showcase for Chinese filmmakers sponsored by Enmaze Pictures and hosted at the 618 S. Michigan Ave. Building.

By Addie Reese

The work of Chinese-American filmmakers is seldom shown on the big screen in America, but a new international film festival has come to Columbia and is looking to change that. 

“Something Important,” an ongoing short film festival showcasing the works of Chinese-American filmmakers, began Oct. 23 and will be at the 618 S. Michigan Ave. Building through Dec. 12 as part of its international tour. 

Enmaze Pictures is a film production and distribution company based in New York that showcases independent films in the U.S. and China. 

Yidi Li, a graduate student in Columbia’s creative producing program, curated the event. With a rapidly growing Chinese film industry, Li emphasized it is important to help Chinese American filmmakers and make their work known. 

“This generation is going to be the core force of the future Chinese film industry,” Li said. “Mainly, I want people to see from an international perspective how film work can contain that [international] content but still appeal to a diverse culture. Also, I want the filmmakers or artists in Chicago or wherever in the United States to realize that there are so many opportunities to collaborate with Chinese filmmakers.”

Li’s outreach to the company is  what brought the film tour to Columbia. She said Enmaze Pictures selected 21 films and decided to take the films on its U.S. tour. Originally, they were thinking  of going only to New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles,—excluding Chicago because the organizers were not familiar with the city’s vibrant art and culture or the filmmaking community and environment.

Bruce Sheridan, chair of the Cinema Art + Science Department, said he thinks the lack of diversity in the film industry as a whole is a concern. 

“The mainstream film industry is not really representative [of the real world],” Sheridan said. “It just doesn’t set out to be representative. It’s a downward spiral. The less representation there is, the less effort there is and it just gets worse and worse. There’s much more movement happening in the independent film industry and away from Los Angeles.”

Sheridan said short films are often made when one’s budget is not large enough to produce a feature film. 

“That’s changing really rapidly because of these big film schools,” he said.

Though diversity is an ongoing issue, Sheridan said it is one that can be solved in time.

I’m a great believer in young people and time,” Sheridan said. “If you work with young people and you open their minds up, then over time there will be more and more of those people and the problem will get dealt with, and [‘Something Important’] is a great start to that. We do things like this administratively and as a faculty, but it is even more powerful when students do it because that’s a different statement. That’s not just a statement about diversity or representation. It’s a statement about empowerment.” 

Information about the directors and cast and a set of headphones are being distributed to audience members at the seven films being played individually at The Arcade on the second floor of the 618 S. Michigan Ave. Building.