Ruby Yang, an Oscar-winning filmmaker, is at the JMSC this month teaching a course on the craft and art of documentary filmmaking.
The course, which ends May 31, is guiding students through the process of digital editing and documentary post-production.
Yang said that editing is one of the most important parts of filmmaking, but is often overlooked.
“Students are usually very good at filming and getting material,” she said, “but they tend to put a lot of stuff in without crafting the narrative or focusing the theme of their work. I’m teaching students … how to combine those ingredients so that they are able to reach an audience while remaining true to their subject matter.”
Yang won an Academy Award for her short film, The Blood of Yingzhou District, which follows a group of children in China’s Anhui province whose parents died of AIDS. Their parents had contracted the disease through faulty techniques that were used when they donated blood for money to supplement their incomes.
The film helped bring international attention to the spread of AIDS in Anhui, which officials estimate to have infected between 10,000 and 50,000 people by 2005.
After the film was released, then-Premier Wen Jiabao invited a group of children whose lives had been impacted by AIDS to Beijing on World AIDS day in 2006. Two years later, he continued to show his concern for the situation by traveling to Anhui, where he shook hands with some of the children Yang had featured in the film.
Yang, who was born in Hong Kong, said that the film is an example of what she attempts to do in all of her work – to combine filmmaking with social justice and advocacy work.
She moved to San Francisco in the 1970s, she said, and “as I got to know the history of Chinese Americans and the unfairness and discrimination they faced, it made me want to document injustices in a way … to make people aware of them, to change attitudes, to inspire people to action.”
Yang currently lives in Beijing, where she is the director of the Chang Ai Media Project, an independent company she co-founded to produce documentaries and public service ads addressing health issues in China.