Yan Cui

writer / director / producer

Born and raised in Beijing, China, Yan Cui started her career in the film industry as an actress and assistant director at the Beijing Film Studio. After moving to Canada, Yan earned her BFA in Film and Media Arts Studies from Ryerson University. Yan earned her master degree at as a Director Resident of the prestigious Norman Jewison's Canadian Film Center.

For her feature debut, Yan wrote, directed, and produced the award-winning film, CHINESE CHOCOLATE that garnered the International Confederation of Art Cinemas Award (C.I.C.A.E. Award) at the Berlin Film Festival, the Best Director at the Palm Springs Film Festival, and has been an official selection by more than 40 film festivals around the world. The film was distributed internationally and at top 10 of the box-office in Brazil, and streamed on Netflix.

Yan’s follow-up second feature, which she also wrote, directed, and produced, was TIAN SHANG REN JIAN (YELLOW WEDDING), a co-production between China, Singapore, and Canada, premiered in Singapore and was distributed in Asia and has been officially selected by World Film Festival of Montreal, Canada New Voice of IFFM New York, and Asian Pacific Film Festival.

Yan wrote, directed and produced her romantic comedy LOVE, SIMPLY, released in China nationwide in 2015. Her adventure romantic actioner, WHEN AFRICA MEETS YOU, which she also wrote, directed and produced, shot entirely in Africa and released in China nationwide in 2018. Her recent finished feature she wrote, directed and produced, PANDEMIC TRILOGY, is going around in the film festivals circle.

Yan’s currently in pre-production for CHINESE CHOCOLATE – MADE IN CHINA, a sequel to her award-winning debut, about a Chinese wife’s transformation after she found out her husband is a deep-in-closet gay. Other projects in development are: a hour procedural show set in LA, FENGSHUI DETECTIVE; a hour streaming show set in LA, WARM BODY; a pandemic inspired horror film set in New York City, UNWILLING…; an anti-poaching related drama set in Kenya/Zimbabwe, ELEPHANT BABY; and a mystery thriller set in Portugal, DOUBLE PLAY.

Yan has also made several short films, including the award winning shorts LATE AFTERNOON, THERE TRY ALIVE, THINGS IN BETWEEN and HARM’S WAY that was officially selected in USA Film Festival, Atlantic Film Festival and showcased on "Shameless Short" and "CFC Retrospective".

Yan’s cultural background and years of production expertise both in the US, Canada and China allow her to tell a story from a unique point of view with passion and precision.

Your project has entered in our festival. What is your project about?
Thanks for selecting our film at your festival. Pandemic Trilogy is a story about a caring cuddler, a bored upper-class wife, and a paranoid boy, whose lives were intertwined and upended after the Covid-19 pandemic.

What are your ambitions with your project?

- As an artist and filmmaker, I feel a strong responsibility with this film. This pandemic was a global disaster, a once-in-a-lifetime event. I needed to explore the pandemic’s impact and trauma and how it profoundly affected and disrupted our lives from various perspectives. And I hope my film will make people remember, reflect, and learn from the pandemic.

Tell us something about your shooting? What pleasantly surprised 
- We shot this film during the pandemic, which made everyone nervous and scared. There were constant Covid tests and worries about shutting down the production if anyone on set were infected.
- Although both budget and schedule were very tight, everyone who collaborated with us was devoted to the project, and we completed the shooting within 13 days.
- What pleasantly surprised me was that whenever we needed locations, we amazingly discovered them. For example, we were supposed to go up to the redwoods in North California. But due to budget and schedule limitations, we could not make it. However, someone from the crew did a thorough search and found a similar location in the LA area. That saved the day!
For what group of spectators is your film targeted?
- Anyone who went through the pandemic is our targeted audience.

Why should distributors buy your film?
- For the same reason as I mentioned above, I think the distributors should buy our film as it appeals to a mass audience.

How would you specify your work? What characterizes your film?
- My film is an honest and powerful perspective of loved ones being forced to confront the flaws in their relationships brought to the forefront from the pandemic.
- It is a film that does not shy away from the problems that we face every day now. It is a bold statement of how people became so isolated, frightened, and lonely because of the pandemic.

Why did you decide to become a filmmaker?
- I used to be a dancer, singer, writer, magazine chief editor, photographer, and fashion designer and none of these careers fulfilled my desire to create until I found film making. I believe making films is the crown of all art forms; it is thrilling, fascinating and challenging.

Who is your role model?

- Ingmar Bergman, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Bernardo Bertolucci

Which movies are your favorites? Why?
- “Persona” and “Three Colors: Blue”: I love the concepts and styles of them. Female driven, quiet, beautiful, heartbreaking, yet touching, thought provoking, and powerful.

Where do you look for inspiration for your films?
- My inspirations often come from life around me, real stories of women, other films, books, and artistic concepts.

Which topics interest you the most?
- Woman empowering stories.

What do you consider your greatest achievement in your career?
- Gave birth to my daughter.

What do you consider most important about filming?
- Knowing what you want and staying with your own vision and
still getting things done.

Which film technique of shooting do you consider the best?
- Whatever technique fits into your story and your vision is the best one. However, I will never shoot a film merely with coverage.

How would you rate/What is your opinion about current filmmaking?
- Filmmaking nowadays has become much easier due to digital technology. Today, anyone can pick up a digital camera or even an iPhone to shoot a movie. But good filmmaking still needs a soul. That soul comes from a passionate artist who truly understands the human condition, is curious and fascinated by the world around her, and is good at telling stories.

What can disappoint you in a movie?
- Pretentious, shallow in meaning, going for cheap laughs and most importantly not moving, not true.

Who supports you in your film career?
- My mentors like Ang Lee and Norman Jewison, and so many
enthusiastic artists and friends.

Pandemic Trilogy

A caring successful cuddler, a bored upper-class wife, and a paranoid boy, whose lives were intertwined and upended during the Covid-19 pandemic.