BAAFF: What has been your experience making films in Boston?
Liang: I’m from Newton, so it’s all home to me. Filming in Boston is great since I have so many friends and family here. I’m based in New York now, so was just a short bus ride back home to film 9-Man.
BAAFF: Tell us a little about your film.
Liang: It’s about a sport played in Chinatown called 9-Man, which is similar to volleyball but pretty different as well. It’s mostly played by Chinese Americans and Chinese Canadians in a lot of Chinatowns around the U.S. but hardly anyone knows about it. Even most Asian Americans don’t know what it is. A couple years ago, the rotating tournament ended up being in Boston, so I filmed a documentary around it.
BAAFF: That’s awesome. So it’s a film about a sport that is culturally relevant to Asian Americans.
Liang: Yes, that’s the frame. It’s about this fun sport which makes it accessible and approachable to the audience, but it’s more than that. It’s about identity and community as well, around this specific event and culture.
BAAFF: How did you assemble your crew in Boston?
Liang: Well I actually shot most of it myself; I’m a one-man band. I did recruit a few other shooters for the big tournament since we were following multiple teams. My sister flew in from California to help, my mom drove me around as I took shots of bridges, my dad even made lunches for us! It was definitely a family affair.
BAAFF: That’s awesome. Is your dad a good chef?
Liang: He thinks “vegetarian sandwiches” mean cream cheese between two pieces of bread.
BAAFF: Perfect. What has been your experience like with the Boston Asian American Film Festival?
Liang: When 9-Man premiered at iffboston, BAAFF and CHSNE (the Chinese Historical Society of New England) co-hosted a reception/celebration where we came together as a community. Susan [BAAFF Director] gave a moving speech there. It felt like a moment of pride for the community that night, in this moment of celebration. There was spoken word artist [LuDow], a beatboxer [GVS Beatbox], it was incredible.
It’s important to remember how vital community is nowadays. People can watch films on Netflix or download them, but the fact that we were all gathered in a space is irreplaceable, and you can’t match that energy. I was personally touched by BAAFF and CHSNE because some people hadn’t even seen my film yet, but they still jumped in to support me with enthusiasm and pride. They trusted me as a member of their community. It was awesome to have people support you like that.
BAAFF: What would you say to aspiring Boston-based filmmakers?
Liang: Boston is a great place to make films because the people here have a lot of stories to tell. If you’re from here, tell the stories close to your home and your heart, and they will be successful. These days, there is a trend of people telling stories about communities that are not their own. More Asians should tell their stories about being Asian here in Boston.
URSULA LIANG (Director, Producer, Cinematographer) is a journalist who has told stories in a wide range of media. A former staff editor at T: The New York Times Style Magazine and writer/reporter at ESPN The Magazine, Liang was a host of the radio program Asia Pacific Forum on WBAI, associate producer for the Emmy-nominated documentary, "Wo Ai Ni Mommy", producer for the Emmy-nominated Asian American TV show "Stir", and sports editor for the Asian-American magazine, Hyphen. She recently produced for Fuel’s “UFC Countdown”, FX’s “UFC Primetime” and the independent documentary “Fighting Foster”. Liang grew up in Newton, MA and lives in The Bronx, NY. She played club volleyball at the University of Michigan.
Visit BAAFF.org for more information about our upcoming festival in October. Follow 9-Man on Twitter @9mandoc.
Image credit: www.9-man.com