Chinese Student Wins Student Academy Awards in Narrative

July 9, 2014
Editor: Amanda Wu
Chinese Student Wins Student Academy Awards in Narrative
Liu Yulin, a third-grade postgraduate student from New York University, wins silver medal in the Narrative Category at the 41st Student Academy Awards for her short film titled Door God at the Directors Guild of America Theater in Hollywood on June 7, 2014. [Chinese]

Beijing-born Liu Yulin, a third-grade postgraduate student from New York University, won silver medal in the Narrative Category at the 41st Student Academy Awards for her short film titled Door God at the Directors Guild of America Theater in Hollywood on June 7, 2014.

Launched by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1972, the Student Academy Awards is an annual competition to encourage excellence in filmmaking at the collegiate level. The Student Academy Awards are the most important awards in the United States' filmmaking education sector, representing the highest honors for student filmmakers.

Past Student Academy Award winners have gone on to receive 46 Oscar nominations and have won or shared eight awards, including John Lasseter (Pixar), Pete Docter (Pixar), Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future), Trey Parker (Creator of South Park) and Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing).

Liu's Door God tells the story of a 6-year-old girl yearning for maternal companionship in a village of central China's Henan Province. Two years ago, her mother left her and her father to live with another man in a city while her father told her that her mother would come back when the grain became ripe. Each harvest season, the girl stands at the entrance of the village, waiting for her mother.

When her family finally puts up the Door God for the Chinese New Year, her mother shows up, with some irreversible changes to the little girl…

The Door God is a Chinese decoration placed on each side of an entry to a temple, home, business and so on, which is believed to keep evil spirits from entering.

"The reason I produced the film was that the sadness of the rural little girl and her family has been ignored. My hometown has many such ignored emotions. I want to present these emotions to the public," said Liu.

Liu, daughter of renowned Chinese writer Liu Zhenyun, was interested in films from a young age. However, when she ranked first in the national college entrance examination, Liu applied for the Broadcasting Department of Communications University of China (CUC) in the hope of becoming a talk show hostess.

While she studied at CUC, Liu found what she learned was different from her pursuit, and meanwhile, she still cherished the dream of making films. To her, film is a special form of artistic presentation that can translate powerful stories from the mind to the screen.

In her fourth academic year, Liu decided to study filmmaking abroad. "I would like to absorb a different world outlook and methodology rather than simply technical things, so I didn't consider domestic cinema college but applied to the world's top 10 cinema colleges and was eventually accepted by New York University," said Liu.

Chinese Student Wins Student Academy Awards in Narrative
A promotional poster for Liu Yulin's short film titled Door God []

It was difficult to pass the university's interview. Apart from high requirements in English, the applicant was required to write two different kinds of screenplays.

Studying in New York brought about great change to Liu. "I was born and raised in Beijing. Although I traveled to a number of foreign countries, I didn't live in a foreign land before. My life in New York has given me a fresh horizon, looking at things from an international perspective," added Liu. "Door God was filmed in a Henan village to present rural life from an international perspective."

The screenplay originated from Liu's childhood memories. When she followed her father to their hometown, she often saw a neighbor's boy awaiting his mother, which gave Liu some inspiration for her creation.

"My overseas life has got me to understand the Westerners' views on families and love. Actually, people share common feelings on the vicissitudes of life. When I worked on the film, I hoped to tell stories to people around the world rather than stories that only the Chinese are interested in," said Liu.

Although her overseas life has given her more creative room, Liu has insisted on shooting Chinese-themed stories and promoting Chinese films in the international film market.

Although Door God ran only 24 minutes, Liu spent about half a year completing the short film, which was also her student work for her second-grade postgraduate studies.

Liu had a powerful shooting team, which should be attributed to her gap year in the second grade. She took temporary absence from school that academic year to take part in the shooting of Back to 1942, a 2012 Chinese historical film directed by famous Chinese director Feng Xiaogang.

As a script clerk, Liu got acquainted with a number of young competent filmmakers in cinematography and film arts, and thus developed her young team, becoming the key to her success in Door God.

To date, Door God has been selected for more than 30 film festivals around the world, including the Cannes Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival and Bermuda International Film Festival, and won eight international awards, including Best Short Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress, Most Popular Film and Jury Prize.

"I haven't run about these film festivals for awards but wanted to grasp the audiences' responses to my short film at film festivals, including my visit to Cannes," said Liu. "Apart from my film, I would like to see the audiences' responses to other selected films and find out the differences. This will be of great help for me to make feature films."

What impressed Liu most on her trip to Cannes is the sanctity of film. "Though the Cannes Film Festival is held in a small seaside town, one can feel filmmakers' respect for films in every corner of the town. They don't regard film as a kind of recreation but a kind of art, respecting every filmmaker's efforts with their great passion for films," said Liu to The Chinese Weekly.

"That is a kind of virtuous cycle. That's the reason why the best films and filmmakers would like to gather together at Cannes," said Liu.

(Source: and edited by Women of China)


Please understand that,a non-profit, information-communication website, cannot reach every writer before using articles and images. For copyright issues, please contact us by emailing: The articles published and opinions expressed on this website represent the opinions of writers and are not necessarily shared by

Related stories