Directors don’t generally receive the public recognition of lead actors. Their fame is typically restricted to those with whom they collaborate and their admiring peers. However, Dante Jiayu Liu is no typical director. Fiercely committed to his unique voice and vision, Dante’s work in both the American and Chinese film communities has established him as a go-to director in both communities. The creative and commercial viability of any production is often dependent on a production appealing to the commonalities of these countries and Dante has exhibited repeatedly through his work that he is a master of their emotional intersect. From dramatic films (Academy Award-qualifying festivals and Canadian Screen Awards festivals) to iconic publications such as Marie Claire, Dante Jiayu Liu exerts himself creatively with a passion that eludes strict definition; undoubtedly a reason that so many leaders across the entertainment and advertising spectrum seek him out.
A brilliant filmmaker recognizes the connection points among people and highlights them for the public. The goal is to bring understanding and empathy where it may have been absent. Dante’s film San Gabriel Valley derives its name from the area which boasts the largest Chinese community in Southern California. The director found himself intrigued by the elder generation of Chinese immigrants residing there who sought to distinguish themselves from the old country but yet were never fully welcomed into American society. In this world, Dante has manifested a tale which relates much more than just the experience of love; it communicates the variety and impact of the world’s most powerful emotion. The story centers of Supin (Wei Ren), a young woman who has a hard time assimilating to America. With her husband gone to work all the time, she accepts an offer to teach piano at a local music store to fill the days. Supin finds more than she expected when her student Mia (Dralla Aierken of Disney + series American Born Chinese) awakens in her a controlled sense of new love. Not since Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence has such an agonized longing been manifested on the screen. This starkly contrasts the mundanity of Supin’s legal attachment to her husband Qinyi (Miles Yu). These cultural and emotional aspects are an intoxicating theme, blended magnificently by Dante’s guiding hand. He provides insight stating, “I never fully agreed with the concept of marriage. Not that I don’t believe in a-life-long love, but I found the value of such a contract ridiculous. In many places, people don’t realize what love is until they meet enough kinds of different loves. And sadly, for many people, they don’t even get to experience different kinds of love for themselves so that they can understand themselves. We all know those married couples that did not get married for love. For them, marriage was just a stop in their life journey, with a person who happened around the ‘correct’ time. Not every love feels like burning flame. Some love feels like the morning tea, the late-night coffee, something that doesn’t give you crazy lust and desire but does bring you a consistent and continuous source of comfort. After all, life is but three meals a day. No matter how exciting something was, after a long time it will start to taste like water.”
The deluge of complex feelings elicited by Dante’s films like San Gabriel Valley and others has prompted companies from across the planet to seek his skill to imbue their productions with this same quality. The branding commercial he directed for Designworks (the design intervention studio for BMW Group) communicates the company’s modern sleek sense of style as well as its passionate investment in innovation. Of course, a sense of style is synonymous with Marie Claire, for whom Dante directed a segment for the fashion and beauty legend’s digital channel. Marie Claire had admired Dante’s prior work on a production featuring NBA star Keldon Johnson and desired to create something as powerful for their own brand. Featuring Chinese international supermodel Qin Shupei and highlighting her entire career in a scant thirty seconds, Dante was enlisted to direct for his remarkable ability to convey an array of emotions succinctly in this Marie Claire original production. More of his commercial work is coming as part of Dante’s association with QD Sports. Their previous collaboration, “QD Sports x Keldon Johnson 2022 — Future is Now” took home the commercial industry’s highest honor, a Telly Award, in 2023. The near future will also see Dante’s directing of the feature film Broken Blvd. Dante’s enthusiasm for his work is evident as he proclaims, “Directing is a very personal form of art. The job of a director is to hide his ideas in moments of life, expressing them through the mixture of light, shadow, and sound. In the end, the audience should grasp the message not only from the words but also from the emotions that are hidden in the visual of the director. All I want is that my story can one day be screened for audiences around the world and hopefully they will all enjoy it through the barrier of language and cultural differences.”