UCLA’s 32nd annual Chinese-American Culture Night hopes to highlight the experience of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders until the next lotus bloom.
Organized by the Chinese American Association, the preparation for CACN was a year-long effort that led to the launch of the film “Until the next lotus blooms” tomorrow on Zoom and Discord. Premiering during AAPI Heritage Month, the show will also feature the three winners of ACA’s AAPI Talent Showcase and incorporate videos from UCLA’s Chinese Lion Dance Troupe and Cultural Dance Club. Chinese from UCLA. Creative director and fourth-year molecular, cellular and developmental biology student Dylan Tan says that while the creative process began last May, post-production editing wrapped up this month. .
“The goal is really to showcase the Chinese-American culture to the wider UCLA community,” Tan said.
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Told through two parallel timelines, the cohesive film reflects both the past and present Sino-American experience. The two stories are unified by repeated patterns and shared experience across generational divides. Tan said the producers wanted to highlight different aspects of the AAPI community’s endurance through racial bias.
“As a pre-med student, Zoe wanted to directly address the current COVID-19 situation and Mary An had read about past events in Hawaii,” Tan said. “So the creative directions helped them write a script that brought both of their ideas to life.”
Co-produced by third-year microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics student Zoe Ge and third-year economics student Mary An Nan, the first screenplay tells the story of Mei, who was separated from her family during the bubonic plague epidemic of the 1900s in Hawaii’s Chinatown. . Forced into government-sanctioned quarantine camps for Asian Americans, the character must confront her identity as an immigrant to America.
Moving through the generations, the second story follows Jocelyn, an expectant mother struggling with her marriage during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Edmund Zhi, a sophomore in molecular, cellular and developmental biology., who plays Mei’s older brother, Frank. Raised all her life on traditional family values, Zhi says Jocelyn must choose between following tradition or her own happiness.
Previously unaware of past injustices the AAPI community faced during the bubonic plague, Zhi said it was crucial that the film shed light on these underrepresented narratives to inform the community at large. Without these past narratives being actively brought to the fore, they are often brushed aside or forgotten.
“We call for light on issues that are truly repeating themselves in Asian American history,” Zhi said. “There’s hope in the sense that we’re bringing attention to these things and people are getting this call for change.”
For the past 30 years, the CACN has traditionally been held at Royce Hall. Tan said adapting to a virtual format this year has created its own set of challenges for cast and board members with fundraising, finding sponsors and selling merchandise online. The cast also had to deal with the limitations of online rehearsals, such as the struggle to form real emotional connections with the other actors, Zhi said.
“It’s hard to get the timing right on Zoom, especially during the most intense scenes,” Zhi said. “For example, the argument scenes where you have to back and forth and interrupt each other – it’s a bit awkward with the delay.”
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Due to these restrictions, Zhi said the two in-person rehearsals the actors held before filming were extremely necessary. Still adhering to safety precautions, each cast member had to submit two negative COVID-19 tests before meeting in person, he said. After everyone was cleared, the entire production was filmed in 10 hours of shooting at a studio near Koreatown.
Although the online format presented these new challenges, the CACN Chair of Marketing, Irene Chang said the virtual production can reach more people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to see the event in person. The first-year psychobiology student said incorporating video submissions from UCLA’s AAPI community has increased his accessibility, allowing for more diversity and representation on the show.
“We wanted more people to be part of CACN this year and allow the audience to have something showcased at our event as well,” Chang said.
In light of the recent attacks on the AAPI community, the importance of celebrating Chinese-American culture is felt more strongly than ever, Zhi said. Although told through a contemporary lens, Zhi said “Until the Next Lotus Bloom” draws attention to the community’s past unwavering perseverance through adversity.
“AAPI hate is not a new thing happening,” Zhi said. “It’s important to shed light on these lesser-known aspects of the story and put things in a new perspective.”