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USC Films Highlighted in Ancient Paths, Modern Voices Festival

USC School of Cinematic Arts' Mark Jonathan Harris, Johanna Demetrakas, and students from USC present and comment on their work following the sample screenings.
November 3, 2009

On October 28, 2009, the USC U.S.-China Institute, USC School of Cinematic Arts and the Orange County Film Society sponsored a screening of student documentaries at the Regency South Coast Village Theater in Costa Mesa.  The documentaries were made through collaborative efforts by students from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and the Beijing Communication University.  Launched in 2006, the program allowed an exchange of seven students to the other school, where each student worked with their American or Chinese counterpart to produce short documentaries on Los Angeles and Beijing as global cities.  The films screened at the this year’s event include: Two Brushes by Chera Kee, Lessons of America by Wen Jing, Children of the Sun by Justin Feldman and Xiao Beidi, Big Red Heart by Nahil Sharkasi and Cao Jingpin, Shadow House by Laura Yilmaz and Yang Yijing, and Invisible Wall by Adan Avalos and Han Xie.  Professors Johanna Demetrakas and Mark Jonathan Harris of the USC School of Cinematic Arts joined their students that night to celebrate their successes and provided commentary after the screenings.


Click play to see brief interviews with faculty and two of the student filmmakers.

Click here to see films from the 2006 collaboration (films from other years will be posted shortly.)

Tani Ikeda, co-director of Turn of the Harvest

Laura Yimaz, co-director of Shadow House

Mark Jonathan Harris and Johanna Demetrakas

TWO BRUSHES by  Chera Kee
A Chinese and an American filmmaker find a unique answer to the challenge of collaboration.

LESSONS OF AMERICA by Wen Jing (worked alone)
A Chinese exchange student gets a tough greeting on her first day in America.

CHILDREN OF THE SUN by Justin Feldman and Xiao Beidi
In an orphanage for children of incarcerated parents, a young boy misses his mother.

BIG RED HEART by Nahil Sharkasi and Cao Jingpin
A Beijing performance artist wears a signboard declaring his love for his fiancé, but she has other ideas.

SHADOW HOUSE by Laura Yilmaz and Yang Yijing
A visual ode to an odd commune of shadow players who struggle to keep  dying art alive.

INVISIBLE WALL by Adan Avalos and Han Xie
A family is forced to leave Beijing and move back to the country in order for their children
to get an education.

USC Faculty:

Johanna Demetrakas has directed episodic television including: L.A. Law and Doogie Howser, M.D.; feature films: Out of Line, starring Jennifer Beals; short film: Homesick; award winning documentaries and the iconic feminist art films: Womanhouse, and Right Out of History.

Demetrakas brings writing, producing and editing experience to her classroom. She is able to present not only what the director's vision must be but how to communicate that vision to her cast and crew of cinematic artists. 


Professor Mark Jonathan Harris is an Academy-Award winning documentary filmmaker, journalist and novelist. Among the many documentaries he has written, produced and/or directed are The Redwoods, a documentary made for the Sierra Club to help establish a redwood National Park, which won an Oscar for Best Short Documentary (1968). The Long Way Home (1997), a film made for the Simon Wiesenthal Center about the period immediately following the Holocaust won the Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary (1997). Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport was produced for Warner Bros. and also won an Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary (2000).

Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives (2003), an HBO documentary he wrote on slavery in America, was nominated for an Emmy for Non-fiction Special. In 2007, he produced Darfur Now, which was nominated by The National Board of Review and the Broadcast Film Critics Association for best documentary of the year. The film went on to win an NAACP Image Award. His latest feature documentary as a director is The Defector, which will be released this year.

In addition to filmmaking, Harris is also a journalist and has published short stories and five novels for children. He has taught filmmaking at the School of Cinematic Arts, where he is a Distinguished Professor, since 1983.

To view Documenting the Global City: Beijing Screening Interviews please click [HERE].

Presented by USC US China Institute and Orange County Film Society. For more information, please visit:

The 2006 films produced in this project can be seen here: