Authenticity, it’s the most vital element of any film. Whether an acting performance, costuming, writing, or any aspect of the process, it is the believability of what the audience perceives that allows them to become immersed and connect with the story being told. There’s been a recent recognition in Hollywood that those whom are creating films infuse a resonant truth to the filmmaking process, along with their talent. Among others, opportunities continue to open up for female filmmakers; Qiyu Zhou’s Miss Boundless stands as a recent example of the exceptional filmmaking that occurs when a mostly female production team collaborates to tell the story of a strong woman. Screened at nearly two dozen film festivals worldwide including the Oscar qualified Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival and Urbanworld Film Festival, as well as winning the Remi Award at 53rd WorldFest Houston and Best Drama at the Asians On Film Festival of Shorts, Miss Boundless is an extraordinary tale told from a perspective that only a filmmaker such as Zhou and her team possesses. A familiarity with the filmmakers is certainly not necessary to be captivated by Miss Boundless but it certainly informs audiences that its message is not supposition or hyperbole.
The reason for the sincerity of Miss Boundless is rooted in the fact that, with the exception of Adam P. Boland (cowriter), all of the key crew members responsible for this film are women of color. DP Riley Shen, production designer Roxy Yi Hua, editor Luqi Zhao, and director/writer Qiyu Zhou may not have lived in ancient China but they certainly understand a woman’s perspective in the culture of their homeland. This shared experience was the emotional touchstone which these artists used to temper their resolve in making Miss Boundless. It offered a shorthand in establishing the tone of the story. Zhou describes, “I find that the power of sisterhood is something I’ve been relying on my whole life. When we teamed up and talked about this story, I found that we all experienced similar backgrounds and childhoods. Many things behind a happy mid-class family in China are beyond the surface. Especially as young women, we learn to forget that what we experienced was wrong unless someone reminds us. When a group of us sat together, we were inspired by each other to dig thoroughly into the theme of the film, the ideology of ‘preference for sons over daughters’ in China and how to tackle it as a growing young woman.” In the past, women of the culture have been dissuaded from bringing this topic up. Zhou and her fellow filmmakers mark a major turning point as they defiantly denounce this notion of preferring one gender over another. A professional can possess great skill but an artist is someone with a powerful message to communicate; in Miss Boundless, Qiyu Zhou has met the requirements of both these definitions.
Miss Boundless features Junru Wang as Zhang, a teenage girl of noble birth who is determined to prove her equality with that of the male heirs in her family. The film is set during the latter part of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). In addition to the “newer” faces in the cast is famed actor Russel Wong known for such hit films as Romeo Must Die, Twisted (with Sam Jackson and Ashley Judd), and Mummy 3 (starring opposite Brendan Fraser). Goldsea Asian American Daily recognized Mr. Wong as one of the “100 Most Inspiring Asian Americans of All Time.” Miss Boundless is the only film for which Russell spoke his dialogue in Mandarin. Concerning his attraction to the film, Russell proclaims, “A mutual friend, DP Amir Mokri who lensed The Joy Luck Club, introduced me to Qiyu. I was intrigued by working with this young Chinese director and the experience was excellent for me. Qiyu shared some of her experience and knowledge coming from a male dominated society and my character’s similar outlook towards his daughter.” Qiyu reciprocates, “Of course, working with Russell Wong was unforgettable. I feel actors at this level have a skill that can make you pause or even freeze for a while and just look at him. I experienced that from working with Russell even during the rehearsal. It was marvelous.”
Miss Boundless offers great entertainment but also so much more. It’s rare in America that we are able to experience a new perspective of another culture via a fresh and unique voice. Qiyu Zhou and her team for this film have blended modern filmmaking with a cultural statement set in a historical context; a major achievement by any standard. Established cross-cultural artists like Russell Wong recognized this and sought to be included in the making of this exceptional film and the film community has validated this choice. Miss Boundless is informative, inspirational, and confirmation that female voices have a major contribution to make in the world of cinema.
Writer: Coleman Haan