When it comes to filmmaking, “sometimes you just have to take risks and believe you can make a difference.” Such was the advice from Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and JMSC faculty member Ruby Yang before a packed audience at Hong Kong University on April 25.

Photo by Vannarin Neou

Photo by Vannarin Neou

Yang was delivering her inaugural talk, titled “Becoming American, Becoming Chinese: A Personal Journey Through San Francisco, Beijing and Hong Kong,” as HKU’s new Hung Leung Hau Ling Distinguished Fellow in Humanities. She showed clips of her documentaries, short subjects and public service announcements, and gave a tour d’horizon of her career.

Yang left Hong Kong for San Francisco in 1997 to study art. She left her comfort zone and moved to Beijing in late 2004 to produce films about such sensitive subjects as HIV/AIDS and environmental degradation.

She is best known for the trilogy of short documentary films she produced there: The Blood of Yingzhou District, about a group of orphans whose parents died from HIV/AIDS-tainted blood, which won an Oscar in 2007; The Warriors of Qiugang, which tells the story of villagers fighting against a toxic chemical plant, and received an Oscar nomination for best documentary short in 2011; and her film about the lives of gay men in China, Tongzhi in Love, which was short-listed in the same category in 2008.

“I’ve now gone full circle, coming back to Hong Kong, and now (to) the JMSC,” she said.

In addition to their artistic merit, Yang’s works show the impact documentary films can have on the lives of their subjects. “After Warriors of Qiugang was nominated, the local government in Benghu in Anhui province announced a RMB30 million campaign to clean up the toxic sites shown in the film,” Yang said. “Today, they’re all cleaned up.”

While being a filmmaker in China is rewarding, the challenges can be daunting, she said. When dealing with government officials, “you need locals to help you ‘decode’ the real meaning of what they’re saying,” said Yang. “It’s also getting more difficult to film in China as the government tightens up. This is why I’m mentoring the next generation of young Chinese filmmakers.”

Her advice to aspiring filmmakers was to be objective, and don’t shoot too much. “You have to be prepared to do a lot of post-production work. Also, think out your theme before you ask questions. Outlines and storyboards are important.” She also recommended that filmmakers spend a lot of time with their subjects, particularly if they want people to open up.

Despite the obstacles and financial risks, Yang was optimistic about the future of documentary filmmaking, particularly in the Asian region. “Being a filmmaker is tough, but right now there are lots of subjects in Asia,” she said. “I see difficulties and challenges, but also lots of opportunity.”

29 April 2014

Academy Award Winning Faculty Member Gives Inaugural Talk

Academy Award winner and JMSC faculty member Ruby Yang delivered her inaugural talk, titled “Becoming American, Becoming Chinese: A Personal Journey Through San Francisco, Beijing and Hong Kong,” as HKU’s new Hung Leung Hau Ling Distinguished Fellow in Humanities on April 25. She showed clips of her documentaries, short subjects and public service announcements, and gave a tour d’horizon of her career.
28 April 2014

Summer Institute for News Literacy Fellows in Asia 2014

Become a News Literacy Fellow this summer at the University of Hong Kong. Help pioneer a new course for university students on how to evaluate information coming from the news media! Work and study with […]
28 April 2014

JMSC Student Awarded Prestigious Cambridge Scholarship

Billy Wong Shing-keung, a second year Bachelor of Journalism student from Hong Kong, has been awarded the Pembroke-King Programme Scholarship at the University of Cambridge, one of four students in the world to receive the summer programme scholarship.
28 April 2014

JMSC Student Wins International New York Times Competition

Joyce Xu, a third year Bachelor of Journalism student from Hong Kong, has won the International New York Times “Word (World) of Yours” Writing Competition 2013 for her article, “The Impact of Social Media on Global Awareness,” which was published April 1 in the INYT’s Hong Kong and China print editions.
17 April 2014

OpenGov Project

The OpenGov project provides resources, training and use cases in government transparency and accountability. We follow the principle that greater access to government information (OGI) will help create a more informed and better engaged citizenry […]
15 April 2014

Master of Philosophy / Doctor of Philosophy in Journalism

The Journalism and Media Studies Centre (JMSC) at The University of Hong Kong is inviting applications for the 2014-2015 PhD programme. Postgraduate scholarships are available for eligible candidates.
14 April 2014

JMSC Singled Out For Its Teaching of News Literacy

Once the provenance of American universities, the subject of news literacy is now expanding abroad where new models of teaching are gaining attention. One such course at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre was recently highlighted in the Columbia Journalism Review for its innovative approach to de-Americanizing the news literacy curriculum for a more global student body.
9 April 2014

JMSC Students Take 2nd Prize in Samsung Competition

Two undergraduate journalism majors have taken 2nd prize in Samsung's Solve for Tomorrow competition, winning cash and product prizes for both themselves and the JMSC.