Interview: Oscar-winner Domee Shi shares experience of making universally appealing movie

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-08 17:36:13|Editor: zh
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LOS ANGELES, March 7 (Xinhua) -- Chinese-born Canadian director Domee Shi said on Tuesday that the success of her Oscar-winning short film "Bao" lies in its universal theme, and recommends Chinese filmmakers create a unique style beyond Hollywood and other mainstream studios.

"Bao," produced by Pixar Animation Studios, won Best Animated Short at the 91st Academy Awards ceremony held at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles in February. Shi became the first Chinese writer and director of a Pixar short.

A tasty morsel, "Bao" explores the life of a Chinese immigrant mom living in Toronto with her inattentive husband, struggling to cope with loneliness after her beloved son flies the nest.

The mom's empty-nester angst turns into joy when a leftover dumpling (a bao) comes alive in true Pinocchio fashion. "Our universal theme was about parents learning to let go of their children, using food as a language of love for parents and children," Shi told Xinhua.

"The mom character is definitely based on my own mom, who is very over-protective toward me, her only child," said Shi, Pixar's animation wunderkind, who is racking up trophies and accolades for her animated short directorial debut.

Born in China's southwestern municipality of Chongqing, Shi spent most of her life in Toronto, Canada. Her mother is a cook, while her father is an artist and arts professor at Sichuan Fine Arts. It was her father who first encouraged her to draw.

Shi graduated from the animation program at Sheridan College. She began as a story intern at Pixar Animation Studios in June 2011. "People at Pixar began to notice my work and that boosted my confidence and helped me find my own voice."

In "Bao," Shi set out to profile real Chinese culture with appeal to all audiences. "The key is to be true to yourself, your own experience, and your stories, but try to find the one thing that everyone in the world has in common, and use that as a way to tell your unique story."

Shi said that "by making a film that can only be made in China," Chinese filmmakers could make films with more universal appeal. "Offer that unique experience to the international audiences that Hollywood and other more mainstream studios cannot."

"If you try to copy big Western, Hollywood films by throwing in tons of effects and fight scenes, Westerners are used to that. So, figure out what it is about a Chinese film that they cannot get from a Hollywood movie," she explained.

"With a lot of my favorite Chinese films, like 'Hero,' by Zhang Yimou, I'm blown away by the fight scenes, the colors, the story, the artistry, the scope, the sets, and the amount of extras they use," she said. "This can only be made in China!"