Filmmaker Magazine’s annual spotlight on the 25 New Faces of Independent Film was recently released, with CalArtians Lucy Kerr (Film/Video-Art MFA 20) and Chenliang Zhu (Film/Video MFA 23) among the 2022 list.
Kerr is a performance, film, video, and installation artist and curator whose singularly disciplined upbringing is reflected in her films. Kerr discussed her background, including a rigorous private school education, with Filmmaker Magazine:
Ballet was a part of that: I enjoyed the discipline and intensity of how it pushed my body, even at a young age, and having that form of expression, but how gendered it is, and how much suffering there is in the dancers, wore on me. That’s a big part of my work now: how our bodies are disciplined and conditioned on a daily basis.
Such themes permeate Kerr’s debut feature film Family Portrait, for which she has already received a 2022 FIDLab AirFrance Prize 2022 and a 2022 Austin Film Society Feature Film Grant. The film, which was shot in and around Kerr’s grandparents’ home in Kerrville, Texas, depicts the seemingly picture-perfect Wilson family at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of the sudden loss of two family members. Family Portrait is currently slated for a festival launch in 2023.
Among Kerr’s other works are her short films “Site of Passage” (2022) and “Crashing Waves” (2021) and her 2019 performance piece Four Girl Trick, also featuring her continued exploration of interdependency in performance.
Zhu is an MFA candidate in the School of Film/Video’s Film Directing Program whose second-year film, Parkland of Decay and Fantasy, premiered at CPH: DOX earlier this year in Copenhagen, Denmark. Billed as a hybrid nonfiction, the work is set in an abandoned Chinese amusement park in which a group of artists work and live. Zhu reflected on the film’s inspiration:
For the first 12 years, I grew up in a gated community that studied rockets. That landscape really lingered in my mind. Parkland is in a very isolated community, and there’s only one way to the island: through a tunnel. That’s very similar to the community where I grew up, where there’s only one very narrow lane in.
The film employs numerous modes, which were shot and edited over the course of six months—the point of view switches between a cellphone, aerial drone footage, and Instagram Live, evoking the unsettling nature of “found footage horror films.”
By layering physical, virtual, and spiritual realities, Parkland of Decay and Fantasy the “gap between the dreams and realities of its wayward residents,” and the ways in which it parallels the “highs and lows” of China’s economic growth over the past three decades.
See all 25 filmmakers selected this year at Filmmaker Magazine.