The Columbia Campaign | April 7 2020
The Life of Fanxi Sun
by George Frey
"Intimacy is the goal."
(Her Diary, an Analysis) Fanxi Sun, a senior MU student majoring in Film Production, created a short 4-minute film, with the script coming directly from her diary. The film has a slot at Cannes Film Festival.
Huzhou; A city that sits in the shadow of nearby Shanghai, is a coastal Chinese city of 2 million. It is a city where ancient traditions meet buildings of glass and steel, which stretch themselves into the vast sky above. This densely populated metropolis is a far cry from Columbia, but it is exactly where Fanxi Sun came from to pursue her dream of becoming a world-renowned filmmaker.
Sun, a senior at MU, seeks to put her thoughts into cinema, for individuals to absorb and reflect upon. Her newest project, ‘Her Diary,’ which will be screened at France’s Cannes Film Festival, is just the latest chapter in her journey. A journey where she traveled into the unfamiliar. At the same time, however, it is a journey where she has managed to come out on top, via her incredible tenacity and natural creativity.
Huzhou is where her interest in film began, with her father being an avid film buff. This time she spent with her father in her youth, morphed into a fascination for her while in high school, where Sun began to realize what her heart was telling her to do, with it leading her to Mizzou.
“My dad really likes watching films, so I grew up watching films with him and I discovered my interest in high school, where I made up my mind that I was going to go to the U.S. and study film,” Sun said. “I was applying for schools here [The U.S.] and there was an agency in China and one of the teachers studied at Mizzou.”
So, Sun set out on the 7,176-mile journey across the Pacific from Huzhou to Columbia. With her arrival, she found the Missouri International Student Council (MISC) and Chloe Khaw, a fellow international student, hailing from Malaysia.
“When I first met her, she was still a sophomore,” Khaw said. “At that time, we were split into two teams, activity and publicity, and she was in the publicity team, which deals with social media. So she was already creative in that she would take photos and videos for the organization. I feel like she’s always been very artsy.”
Sun’s mind is like a well-oiled machine, she runs on her own time, but she takes people along for the ride. Her creative process is one that is well defined, inclusive and a natural part of her. To individuals like her film professor & mentor Christian Rozier, Sun has a vision for telling stories, some of which, are more nuanced than others.
“By the time I met her, she was far along in her evolutionary process [...] she came into my course with a highly developed artistic voice,” Rozier said. “She approached me during the first month of our first class together and asked me to review her portfolio [...] in helping her shape her portfolio, I got to see a wider grasp of what she’d been doing in the past several years and it was such an impressive body of work that she’s building. And so I was able to see this kind of cohesive vision that she had, it’s very unique. She’s telling very particular stories about complicated relationship matters and it’s very sophisticated work.”
Intimacy is the goal for Sun. In her work, she wants viewers to not only feel as if they are watching a film which is beautiful, but also one where they feel like they can relate.
Her interest in human dynamics, relationships and internal thought is evident in her latest work. It has a degree of relatability and a lot of authenticity. That authenticity is translated into intimate visuals and sounds, which almost incubate the viewer in a personal internal sensory deprivation chamber, in which every sensation is intensified.
She wants her work to put the viewer in a position of viewing with zero distractions. Part of the way in which Sun attempts to maintain this intimacy is to limit her screenings to offline, live events. Creating an almost museum-like atmosphere, in that, viewing something online versus viewing something in person presents the viewer with a variety of distractions. In-person, however, it is just you and the silver screen.
“I haven’t started using the internet to promote my work, I feel like it’s intimate and I want people who really want to see it to view it on the large screen instead of on the internet,” Sun said. “[...] I really want the audience to have respect and their full attention.”
Perhaps to those around Sun, such as Rozier, the most defining part about her is just her raw talent. In a competitive industry like film, hard work can only get you so far. When you combine determination with a God-given gift and a unique subject matter, expectations and creative limitations vanish.
“There is very little she can’t do [...] her niche is intimate, complicated, nuanced stories, usually about couples,” Rozier said. “[...] She is an artist and that’s not true for everyone who is majoring in film production.”
In the weeks since Sun was awarded a position at Cannes, the event has since been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but despite these setbacks, she has approached the uncertainty of the future with optimism, which is something that is, according to Rozier, 'uniquely Fanxi.'
“I feel like this situation is just letting me get into the real art-world a little faster than normal, cause it’s mostly about self-discipline and productivity without the mandatory requirements from school. It won’t affect my subject matter that much, but mostly about how I treat my work and my workflow,” Sun said. “I think many things will be understood by myself months or even years later.”
What this pandemic has put into perspective for her, however, is not just certain realities of the art world, but also the opportunities which still lay ahead for her. When many others would take this as a sign to give up, Sun has taken it as a sign to be tenacious.
Sun will keep rising.