News Column

International visitors part of South Dakota Film Festival

September 28, 2013


Sept. 28--One of the customers at a downtown Aberdeen bar Thursday night was actress Bai Ling, who was looking for a bowl of soup.

Ling, just returning from a trip to Kenya, traveled to Aberdeen late Thursday to attend the South Dakota Film Festival. She was tired, she said, when her plane arrived at about 11 p.m. Thursday.

"She was exhausted, but not too exhausted to go to Lager's," said Brent Brandt, one of the festival's producers.

Ling was just looking for some food. Unfortunately, Lager's didn't have any Chinese food, said the native of Cheng Du, China.

Still, "It was nice," she said of Lager's. "I was going to dance. But I was too tired."

Ling, 46, is at the festival because of her involvement in a film called "Yellow Hill: The Stranger's Tale." She is the star and one of the producers of the 16-minute film, which was shot in the Black Hills.

"Yellow Hill: The Stranger's Tale" will be shown at tonight's session.

In Kenya and South Africa, Ling appeared in support of elephants, rhinos and other wild animals. During her visit, dozens of people were killed by terrorists at a mall in Nairobi, Kenya. That tragedy and the deaths of wild animals left "my heart in pain," she said.

"Yellow Hill: The Stranger's Tale," she said, deals with the Chinese people who came to America in the 19th century to work on railroads and in gold mines. Many of those people were treated harshly by Americans, she said.

In "Yellow Hill," Ling plays a woman who gets revenge for the Chinese people who were mistreated. In her position as an actress, "I have the passion, power and responsibility to reveal and to display that part of history," she said.

A lot of tender, "heart-filled stories" are revealed in her character's journey in America, Ling said.

The writer and director of "Yellow Hill" asked Ling to be involved. He said, " 'I have written this just for somebody like you. But I'll never be able to get it produced because I need a star,' " Ling recalled.

Ling met with him to give the film more action and make it more attractive to young audiences. The goal is to make "Yellow Hill" a feature-length film. She believes it could become a very successful, "educational and fun movie."

At the beginning of the Friday night's session, producer Tom Black encouraged people to dig up "Red Corner," a 1997 film. Black said that Ling did a wonderful job of acting in that film, starring opposite Richard Gere.

"She's a fantastic actress. We're excited to have her here," Black said on the Capitol Theatre stage.

Ling, who will leave Aberdeen on Sunday, will start a film Tuesday in Los Angeles. She has the lead part in the picture, which is based on a prize-winning novel. "It was originally written for a white actress," she said. But she won the part because of her audition, she said. She memorized a three-page monologue, and the producers said her performance "knocked them out."

In Aberdeen, she's happy to be surrounded by a lot of talented filmmakers, she said. "I'm excited to be here. Look at the theater. It's so historical (with) so much character. It think it's much more interesting than Los Angeles."

In addition to "The Crow" and "Red Corner," Ling said people recognize her from "Wild Wild West," "Taxi 3," "My Baby's Daddy" and the television series "Lost" and "Entourage."

She was in only one episode of "Lost," she noted. "But my role was so powerful people remember it."

Long drive

Three young men drove all the way from Toronto, Canada, to attend the South Dakota Film Festival in Aberdeen. Why? Because they were invited.

The filmmakers -- Walter Woodman, Patrick Cederberg and Matt Hornick -- are currently hot properties. The 18-minute film, "Noah," was voted best Canadian short film earlier this month at the Toronto International Film Festival.

But the Aberdeen event was the first festival to accept "Noah." It was also the first to call the young Canadians and invite them to attend. The call came from Brandt, one of the producers of the South Dakota Film Festival.

The young men were so flattered and Brandt was so persuasive that they realized they needed to come, Cederberg said. At the South Dakota Film Festival, "Noah" was voted best narrative short film.

Cederberg, 23, and Hornick and Woodman, both 22, graduated in May from Ryerson University in Toronto.

The story told in "Noah" plays out entirely on a teenager's computer screen. It will be shown at this afternoon's session, which runs from 2 to 5:30 p.m.

The Canadians left Toronto Wednesday morning, and arrived at 6 p.m. Thursday. They traveled in a Grand Marquis owned by Cederberg's father.

Woodman said the car looks like a drugmobile. The young men were stopped for a time at the border "because we look like a bunch of stoners," Woodman joked.

Because of the Toronto award, the future looks bright for the filmmakers. They plan to attend a festival later this year in Munich, Germany.

Follow @JeffBahr_AAN on Twitter.


(c)2013 the American News (Aberdeen, S.D.)

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