Produced by Yuchuan Cao, Sunflower will soon conclude its festival run and be available for viewing to a wider audience via streaming platforms.
Los Angeles CA 01/03/2022 Sunflower has garnered awards including Best Independent Film at the New York Independent Cinema Awards, WorldFest Houston’s Bronze Award, and a host of others at the LA Independent Women Film Awards, Toronto Indie Shorts, and more.
To transfer emotion to an audience is something magical; to do this in a way that is authentic and honest is even more powerful. Sunflower is a film which achieves this in a profound manner. Yuchuan Cao is an integral component in the success of this production achieving the gravitas it has become so praised for.
Having served as a producer on a number of films, Ms. Cao felt that Sunflower connects many points of those who are underrepresented and deserving of a voice. A deeply personal story inspired by director/writer Mingjie Tang’s experience in China, Sunflower is an immigrant tale which is all too applicable to the experiences of so many women across the entire planet. Skilled filmmakers like Yuchuan Cao are giving support to important stories such as this one.
Jess (powerfully portrayed by Mon Arkin) is a dutiful daughter who works multiple jobs to support herself and her family while also attending university. When she asks Professor Thompson (Daniel Dasent of Primetime Emmy-nominated series Burn Notice and Daytime Emmy Award-winning Series General Hospital) for help in reviewing a paper she wrote, the instructor leverages this to sexually assault her. This is the catalyst that leads Jess to shut down and take on a dark demeanor. Even when a fellow student named Evan (Alec Wang of HBO’s multiple Primetime Emmy Award-winning Series Westworld) reaches out to try and help her, Jess can’t seem to accept that the fault does not lie in some part with herself. Jess’s story and her struggles are sadly far too commonplace for so many women. Though Jess is a character who is well-defined and unique, her experience is recognizable for many female viewers. Just as importantly, it allows male viewers to inhabit her wounded emotional state via Mon Akin’s performance and the adept storytelling skill of the film’s crew.
This film’s producer, Jiarui Guo was so impressed with Yuchuan’s work on previous productions that she specifically requested her to join this film as lead line producer. While Ms. Cao’s responsibilities were numerous, the casting process was perhaps the most immediately impactful. This film has been repeatedly praised for its exceptional cast; one which Yuchuan worked closely with Mingjie Tang to define. She relates, “Sunflower is a story that combines lots of social problems (Sexual harassment, family violence) and cultural conflicts, so the young Jie [Jess] is the key. Jie is a Chinese girl who is only six-years-old but lives in a stressful mixed family. Her mom is a traditional Chinese immigrant and her stepfather is a native alcoholic American. Her mom’s conservative nature could not allow her to say a word and tolerated this kind of behavior, meaning that young Jie needed to live life cautiously. There are not many six-year-olds who could present this type of stress in their acting. We received more than fifty self-tapes and I scheduled more than thirty auditions. Over a month, I worked day & night and tried everything to get any potential cast for my director. Eventually we found our young Jie and my director could pursue her creative goal.” The touch of Yuchuan is felt throughout this film in very subtle ways. She describes the influence she had on one pivotal scene stating, “The approach I chose was to contrast the foreground and background in day scenes. By making the background brighter, the sadness and depression can be amplified when Jie is lost and struggling. By making the foreground darker, the effect is even more dramatic; the eyes of Jie are brighter and her determination and inner transformation can be portrayed.”
Filmmakers like Yuchuan Cao are passionate driven professionals who recognize their work as a calling rather than a means of working up the socio-economic ladder. Artists change the world with their creations. One step at a time, they influence the way that the public sees those around them. It’s a strength to be able to ask others to consider the obstacles and injuries which sculpt their emotions and disposition. This is important work to Ms. Cao, particularly when it comes to films like Sunflower as she remarks, “As a filmmaker, the most rewarding aspect is not about how much money I make or how many awards I get but rather what I bring to this society and how I can have my stories inspire people. I’m so grateful that this movie could be seen by lots of people. Thanks to the opportunity that the film festivals provided us, our movie was screened in many different cities. All of those audiences could see this work by a female director who is standing up for herself and other women who have been harassed and afraid of people’s judgment for too long.”
It is worth mentioning, Ms. Cao also actively participate in producing Lifetime TV movie. One of her works, The Tryst (aka Husband Wife and Their Lover), was officially announced a global offering. It describes a story when an Ad Exec's husband suggests a third in their bed to spice up the marriage, she invites her female trainer, who turns out to be bent on revenge.
About Yuchuan Cao, The Producer：Yuchuan Cao, a successful filmmaker with numerous awards to vet her work, vigilantly pursues opportunities to support the storytelling aspirations of others. For her, making films exceeds simple entertainment, Yuchuan wants to inspire.