If you pay attention to the film scene that isn’t solely focused on big budget features, you’ve likely heard or seen Son of Wanderer. Writer/director Chi Zhou’s half-hour plus saga possesses exponentially more heart-wrenching drama than most films of the past few years, vetted by awards in Los Angeles, London, and beyond. The performances on screen are remarkable, incorporating American and Chinese actors as well as their native languages. This is proof of the ever changing and global appeal of film. Similarly, there is a utilization of incredible talent from both countries behind the scenes of this film. Two time Oscar-winner Jana Sue Memel was the screenwriter working with Zhou to manifest this story. First assistant director Liv Li was the centerpiece keeping everything working smoothly and safely; a somewhat trying role at times. Still, the final results justify any difficulties the production may have had during its creation. Li, like many of her fellow team members has felt the pangs of leaving most everything behind to pursue her dreams; a film as fantastic as Son of Wanderer helps to soothe that artistic struggle.
Conflict makes for entertaining viewing. Son of Wanderer not only depicts a family suffering from years of cold strife but also the differences as the cultures of America and China intersect. Li Mingzhe is a young artist who left behind a failed marriage and a tense relationship with his own parents to pursue his career as an artist in the US. In San Francisco he has not only found acceptance of his unique artistic voice but also love with an American woman. As he prepares to have his first big art show and get married, his mother [Li] shows up on his doorstep curiously unannounced. Both Li Mingzhe and his fiancé are confused as there has been no relationship between mother and son in a number of years. As they tiptoe around each other, the very American daughter tries to find some way to politely mend this rift. Mingzhe seems uninterested in a reunion; a fact intensified when his mother unintentionally reveals that his father has died. A shouting argument erupts and Li immediately leaves stating that she will return to China at once. Only when Mingzhe finds a box she has left, containing keepsakes proving her constant affection for him, does he chase after her.
Son of Wanderer is deeply moving in an unintuitive quiet manner. This is remarkable when considering that the thirty-page script was filmed over the course of a five-day shoot in multiple locations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. The expediency of this schedule could only be achieved by first assistant director Liv Li, according to director Chi Zhou and the DP Nan Li who approached her to agree to the position. Doing so successfully can require a 1st AD to disagree with her fellow filmmakers at times. Liv confirms, “Never assume anything on a film set. There were times during the making of Son of Wanderer when the director and DP just assumed that I’d say ‘no’ to a request and try to work around me. Ha. One of my most important responsibilities is maintaining safety; I’ll say ‘no’ if I have to in order to achieve this but being a great 1st AD also means being creative and I’ll find a way to make the shot work if at all possible. I CAN just run set and finish my day without giving any input, but I want to help them to get what they want.”
The awards this film received are proof of it’s warm reception. The London Independent Film Awards, Los Angeles Film Awards, Mindfield Film Festival, International Independent Film Awards, Rome Independent Prisma Awards, and many others proclaimed the greatness of Son of Wanderer; but watching it for yourself immediately convinces one as to why this production has received such praise from critics and public alike. Liv Li relates that, as someone far from home (Li’s hometown is Beijing China) who has spent her life along the artist’s path, this story has special meaning for her and many of her peers. She reveals, “I think I have grown so much in these years living alone in another country. You have to be strong enough to hold all these mixed feeling together and move forward step by step towards the things you love. I never regret doing so and I’m always mindful of my family’s unconditional love and support along this joyful voyage.”