A filmmaker such as producer Bofan Zhang has found success in the praise of her peers and the numerous awards that her films have earned, but she finds fulfillment in the creation of films which illuminate struggles that open the eyes of the world. An artist’s mindset is driven to achieve connection that resonates within an emotional center we all share; in productions like Reverb and Go Through the Dark, Bofan and her collaborators displayed the overwhelming obstacles of young people and the strength and courage they can possess at even such a delicate age. Through productions such as these, the audience can perceive the lives of others in challenging situations while comprehending that the true power of great filmmakers is in creating an emotional conduit.
Reverb is a film centered on a nine-year-old pianist named Annie (Alexa Swinton of HBO Max series And Just Like That, the Showtime series Billions, and People’s Choice Award Nominated film Old) who begins to suffer from a hearing impairment which threatens her promising future. Through the degradation of Annie’s hearing, we experience the connection that she has shared with her mother and how this new obstacle will affect them. Simultaneously beautiful and sad, a great deal of the film hinges on what Ms. Swinton brings to the role of Annie. Bofan notes that the casting was scrutinous and arduous at times but allowed the production to procure Alexa to ground the story. Ms. Zhang was impressed early on by director/writer Min Kyu Kang’s script. She states,” The script was one of the best that I’d read. I loved the theme and concept, and how Minkyu portrayed the subtle relationship between the young Pianist and music. It talked about mother-daughter intimate love, personal trauma and dreams through classic music. The theme of Reverb was incredibly intriguing to me. As a filmmaker, I intend to make realistic films that can raise social awareness. On one hand, I always feel the responsibility to speak out for minority groups. On the other side, this is some experience related to my path of growth. My mother was a principal of three kindergartens and I always have more patience for children and listening to their voices.” Through elements like the well calculated sound design of Reverb, we are able to inhabit the world of Annie and perceive the world as it changes around her. The presentation of this young girl’s challenging experience is at times overwhelming; a result of filmmaking at its highest level. Reverb has appeared at such prestigious events as the Santa Fe Film Festival (where it won the Best Performance Award), Spotlight Short Film Awards (where it earned the status of Gold Award Winner), Foyle Film Festival (Academy Award, BAFTA, Canadian Screen Award Qualifying), and numerous others.
Equally transformative is the documentary Go Through the Dark, the story of a blind Chinese boy’s skilfulness at the ancient game Go. Though called to work on this project after principal photography was finished, Bofan notes that the subject matter as well as the opportunity to work with the talented first-time documentary director Yunhong Pu made this project highly attractive to her. The film, later on, honourably had Jean Tsien (of the Primetime Emmy Award Winning Film 76 Days) join as the lead producer. While filming may have been completed prior to her work on Go Through the Dark, the manifestation of this film in its final form was far from complete when Ms. Zhang was brought aboard. Her contributions resulted in obtaining the colorists and composers to support the post-production of this documentary, as well as (and quite importantly) making festival strategy, cooperating with sales agents, and seeking more financing. Currently on its festival run, Go Through the Dark had its world premier at DOC NYC, and it has been enthusiastically received by audiences everywhere. Bofan is presently obtaining the proper distributor to enable more audiences to experience this film. Though perhaps a “Chinese” story at first glance, Go Through the Dark is universally relatable as Bofan explains, “On the macro level, this documentary reflects on the influence of family education, explores the possibility of the development of the disabled career in China, and the choice of human nature under materialistic pressure. Going deeper into the plot, we focus on a special pair of father and son who has experienced disability, poverty, deceit, and social injustice. By magnifying the intimacy, contradiction, and entanglement between the father and son in an extreme environment, the documentary also explores the intergenerational relationship and the complexity of human love.” While many films may be great storytelling, it’s the inclusion of a professional such as Ms. Zhang who understands how to present a film and whom to present it to which results in exposure and quantifiable success. How does Bofan perceive this story of a board game that is 2,500 years old connecting and making a difference? She relates,” if Guanglin’s story could be introduced to the world, at least some of the disabled minority groups would be motivated and encouraged. The story would also bring forward the social conditions of disabled children to the center. Furthermore, hopefully, Guanglin’s story could offer some educational inspirations and lessons to families that need to take care of disabled young members.”
Writer: Arlen Gann