The Empathetic Power of Film: Producer Wendi Tang and After Class

In the poorest part of a major city in China, an eight-year-old girl named Su Min and her mother clean toilets and pick up trash, struggling to make enough money to keep clothed and fed. The work is not easy and disheartening but the mother understands that whatever the cost, the only path out of this bleak situation for her daughter is staying in school. The question is, how far will she go to ensure it? This is the focus of the film After Class, the award-winning film heralded at the Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 2020 and so many others. How can we best understand our place in the global community? By seeing the lives of other people and cultures as told with authenticity. This is the lifeline to understanding and empathy. After Classis inspired by the personal experiences of Director/Writer Charles Xiuzhi Dong. To enable him to materialize his vision of this, Xiuzhi procured the aid of master producer Wendi Tang. The positive results of this collaboration are evident via After Class’s inclusion as an Official Selection at numerous Film Festivals across the planet (Tehran International Short Film Festival, Vaughan International Film Festival — Canada, Santa Barbara International Film Festival, etc.) and awards from the Lone Star Film Festival (2020), Lonely Seal International Film, Screenplay and Music Festival, and Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia (2020).

The plight of Su Min and her mother is certainly sobering but not the actual message of the film. After Classis a love letter to parents; a film which recognizes the incredible sacrificial direction that is taken on to ensure a brighter future for those whom you love. In this film, Su Min dreams of going to school someday. Marginalized by the school registration system, her mother tries to send her daughter to school at any cost. The story is based on a series of local news from some years ago, where it was reported that some parents would go so far as to ask their children to get involved in car accidents to scam money from the drivers. The complexity of the varied emotions and intentions of the characters in After Classilluminate real occurrences in society and the “grey” space between right and wrong. Ms. Tang professes that she threw herself into this project with full force as an adamant believer in creating productions of this importance. She relates, “The most rewarding experience as a producer is that I’m a part of telling a story with social meaning, making more people aware of the struggling situation that out-of-province students and their families are in. I believe the producer also contributes to a film’s communication with its audience by ensuring that the director can have the best resources possible to tell the story and strategizing its distribution for it to reach the widest audience possible.”

The way in which we choose to frame our experiences and that of others is what makes a filmmaker so effective, whether they are a producer, director, editor, etc. Wendi Tang brings her ability to perceive the light and dark of every scenario to so many of the celebrated productions she has been a part of creating. In regards to the challenge the film industry is experiencing due to Covid-19, Ms Tang imparts, “I believe the pandemic has changed how the film industry operates on an unprecedented level, showing more possibilities for international collaboration. For example, now, with meetings and social events conducted online, talents worldwide have more chances to connect and even collaborate with each other. This transition is a positive light among all those negatives brought by the pandemic, giving international filmmakers like myself more opportunity to expand our scope of work.” Wendi Tang is presently working on the upcoming Amazon TV series Daisy Jones & The Six, directed by BAFTA Award Winner Niki Caro.

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