On Wednesday, October 17th, first generation Asian-American filmmaker Jing Niu will be coming to Oxford to talk with the Center for the Study of Southern Culture about growing up as an immigrant in the South.
Although Niu is now a freelance journalist with a residency at Crosstown Arts in Memphis, TN, her journey started long from here. Niu immigrated from China when she was a child and grew up in take out food industry in the south.
“I was born abroad in China and moved here and grew up in an African American neighborhood and was highly influenced by African American culture,” Niu said in the Indie Grits interview.
Her dream of becoming a filmmaker was not shared by her parents, but she went on to earn an MFA from Duke’s Documentary and Experimental Arts program
“I love working with people, and when I realized that making visual art is an isolated practice, I wanted to move into an industry where I was working with my friends on a regular basis,” Niu said.
Niu was contacted by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture through Instructional Assistant Professor, John Rash.
“We both lived in North Carolina and studied our MFA’s together at Duke University,” Rash said.
Niu was a great choice for the Brown Bag lecture series with of her expansive body of work and life story.
“I was a big fan of her work and continued to follow her work after we left there and she went on to L.A. and branched out into doing journalism and working for Wired Magazine,” Rash said.
Recently, Niu was inspired by Takamure Itsue, as she was one of the only Asian female explorers that Niu could find information about. An account of Itsue’s famed pilgrimage around the island of Shikoku emboldened Niu to try and retrace her steps while filming a documentary about her backpacking trip.
Niu’s documentaries, “The Traveler Takamure” and “Departing”, are autobiographical and detail successes and struggles of the female Asian experiences in the U.S. and abroad. “The Traveler Takamure” was awarded the Hellen Hill Memorial Grant for best film by a female filmmaker at the 2018 Indie Grits Film Festival.
Niu will be showing some clips of her work during the lecture and hopes that those in attendance will be able to understand what the career of a filmmaker is like post-graduation.
“I think that is the real value is creating an opportunity for students to interact with someone who is out there in the field that graduated not that long ago and is actually making a living doing the things that some of our students want to do,” Rash said.
The lecture will take place at noon this coming Wednesday in Barnard.