Liujin Fang Communicates International Estrangement in One Day Back Home
The American film community is enthusiastically welcoming to insightful and talented filmmakers like Liujin Fang; those who brings a fresh voice and notable skill as a storyteller. At its core, filmmaking is about connection made through a particularly unique perspective but relatable to many. One Day Back Home, inspired by Liujin’s own experience and for which he served as cinematographer and co-producer, achieves this with immense impact. Already recognized with numerous awards (Best Picture — 2022 New York Film Awards, Best Director — 2022 Los Angeles Film Awards, Best Director — 2022 Top Shorts Film Festival) One Day Back Home earned Mr. Fang the award for Best Cinematography at this year’s Roma Short Film Festival. The visual approach of this film is undeniable in its emotive transference. This non-verbal component of the film has enabled audiences across the globe to affix their own feelings to that of the characters in One Day Back Home and its melancholy tale of the inevitable change that occurs as life reveals itself to us.
There’s a lesson in the story of One Day Back Home, both on camera and behind it. Life will present us with painful obstacles and how we choose to handle them defines the type of person we are. When Liujin Fang’s grandmother passed away and he returned home to China for the funeral, he was struck by how much his hometown had changed during his brief absence. The ensuing contemplation became the foundation for the story of One Day Back Home. This also testifies to the spirit of Liujin as a member of the creative community who uses a type of artistic alchemy to create positivity from the challenging experiences of his own life. We have all recognized that moment in which we no longer feel that we belong at home but with this film, Mr. Fang has given us a representative moment to collectively embody it. The story is most profound for those who have experienced living in different countries and cultures but still retains a sense of “out of place” which anyone can relate to. Of course, none of this resonates unless presented with the skill and context of a filmmaker like Liujin. The sorrow and subtle disorientation related via camera angles, the lighting design, and Mr. Fang’s visual language avoids the need to speak the dialect of the characters on the part of the viewer; the mood is communicated easily and is all-enveloping. The camera movements make the main character our proxy with ease and confidence. Liujin’s frequent use of a short-focus lens to show a wide field of view addresses the relationship between the protagonist and his hometown. The abundance of cool lighting throughout most of the film is in contrast to the warm lighting found in flashback scenes, further establishing the difference between happier days and the present. Nearly every visual aspect of this film is discreetly established to lure the audience into the mind and heart of someone who is unexpectedly aware that they are no longer in a place which they felt they could always return to for comfort. The lesson here is that we fail to recognize that we also change quickly.
As with many films of the past two years, One Day Back Home was confronted with many obstacles. Beyond the ubiquitous pandemic, the filming of religious practices such as the wreath laden sidewalks used for the remembrance of the dead in traditional Chinese Taoism created negativity from onlookers. The cultural department of the Chinese government aided the filmmakers in achieving the final fantastic vision for this production. Liujin Fang professes his satisfaction in manifesting a film that has found such wide acceptance stating, “When I initially went back home for the funeral of my grandmother, I was shocked by the changes in my hometown and I felt that the distance between me and home became more and more distant. ‘Where do I belong’, and ‘What’s the meaning of hometown?’ are the questions I couldn’t get out of my head. After that, when I talked with my friends I realised that many overseas students have a similar experience and I felt like this community was often overlooked in art-work. That’s why I decided to shoot this film. I felt I had a responsibility to represent this community.” One Day Back Home received the Critic’s Choice Award in 2022 at the Gangtok International Film Festival and is an Official Selection of the Guam International Film Festival, Jaipur International Film Festival, Madrid Indie Film Festival, and Los Angeles Asian International Film Festival.