By Katie Clelland ’21
Ever since her time at Scripps, filmmaker Alle Hsu ’11 has been fascinated with intergenerational relationships in Chinese culture. For her Asian studies senior thesis, she drew from her great-grandfather’s Columbia University’s master’s thesis to compare the status of women in China in the 1920s to the status of modern Chinese women. She further explored this topic in her other thesis, for media studies, a documentary entitled “Women: From Cultural Revolution to Capitalist Revolution,” which she filmed in Shanghai, China. Inspired by her time researching social issues at Scripps, Hsu has focused the camera on intergenerational relationships in her recent short film, Sophie.
Sophie follows an 8-year-old girl who is left by her mother to live with her grandmother. As Sophie searches the streets for her mother, she realizes with each fleeting call out for her mother that she will not be returning.
“This short film was inspired by the interviews I conducted with women in Shanghai,” Hsu says. “I discovered that many children in Asia are often cared for by their grandparents—sometimes both parents are working, or facing high societal demands, or spending time abroad. As a result, many children in Asia end up developing a closer connection to their grandparents.”
Sophie has been screened at over fifteen film festivals and was even shown at the 2019 October APAture Arts festival, an annual multidisciplinary arts festival that celebrates emerging Asian and Pacific American (APA) artists from the San Francisco Bay Area. Hsu was chosen to be this year’s featured artist through her involvement with Kearny Street Workshop, an Asian Pacific American arts nonprofit in San Francisco where comedians like Ali Wong and Hasan Minhaj launched their careers.
When Hsu spoke to NBC last September she stated, “I think people are aware and a lot has been happening for Asians and Asian Americans with the release of Crazy Rich Asians and The Farewell and that this is an exciting time,” she said. “It’s especially awesome to see an organization like Kearny that has been around since the beginning continue putting their efforts out there to focus on emerging artists. It’s empowering.”
In the future, Hsu plans to make two feature films about her grandparents. She hopes to document her grandfather, Xu Zhimo, one of China’s most well-known poets and her great-grandmother, an inspiring career woman who overcame personal adversity to become both the vice president of the First Shanghai Women’s Savings Bank and the founding member and general manager of the successful Yunshang Fashion Company.
Hsu attributes much of her success as a filmmaker to her interdisciplinary education at Scripps. “Scripps has helped me develop the passion and commitment to the projects I make and the stories I want to tell,” she says. “And studying film at a liberal arts women’s college gave me the confidence to pursue work in a heavily male-dominated field. I know that my voice and visions will be heard if I keep on practicing my craft.”