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Love's different dialects in Yingli Cheng's Lily
What is love and how does it communicate? Filmmaker Yingli Cheng illustrates the complications of the international and familial iterations of this in the film Lily.

Some people are quite simply the perfect person for the job; which is not to discount their abilities, talent, or discipline. Still, authentic perspective is something that cannot simply be adopted or donned like a wardrobe accessory.

Yingli Cheng is a filmmaker with a number of attributes which have cultivated her own artistic style and purpose. Her most recent film Lily (2019) is a tale of social and romantic fusion of American and Chinese cultures. Cheng's experience with both countries has allowed her insight which is authoritatively expressed through the lens (no pun intended) of a modern woman. With so much discussion of immigration, trade, and creative expression in the world, Yingli has created a film which reminds us through humor and drama that every story comes down to a personal level. A tale of love, family, and cultural differences; Lily has already received numerous accolades in both the US and China. These include: WorldFest Houston International Film & Video Festival, a screening at the Through Women's Eyes film festival (US), the Micro Film Festival in Asia where it received the award for Best Foreign Film.

There's a mantra that artistic people often express, "create from what you know." The nucleus of this idea is honesty. Whether it be a songwriter, an actor, or a director, truth shines through these vehicles. Yingli confesses that the inspiration for Lily came from her own relationship with her parents and her international career. She concedes, "I'm an only child. When my career as a filmmaker began to blossom and took me far away from my family, I realized that what I wanted for myself was not necessarily what my parents wanted. It's understandable to not want your child to be far away. I began using the camera and the stories I made to express the love for my family that was not attainable with mere words." The mother/daughter dynamic in Lily is particularly resonant for so many Americans who are the children of parents not native to or residing in the US. While this scenario is plentiful in real life, it takes a consummate filmmaker like Cheng to manifest it on the screen with the sincerity and honesty it deserves. Great stories grab our attention only when told by exceptional storytellers. Lily's producer Tianying Jiang confirms, "Yingli had such a clear vision of this film. One of her most valuable traits is her communication skills. This is evident when watching the film as she presents the action in such a believable manner but long before this, it starts with the actors. She's so exceptional at transferring ideas while listening to the input of others. It's the biggest part of what made Lily so great."

Lily is a story about the messy side of love. This culture-shock dramedy expresses the idea that life is rarely easy but it's always better with those we love around us. Lily (actress Yi Liu) moved to America and fell in love with Nick (Tyler Roy Roberts). Her mother (Ping, played by Xiaojia LI) decides to visit Lily as she hasn't been home for some time. While husband-to-be and potential mother-in-law spotlight cultural differences like personal space and cuisine, it's the mother/daughter interaction that brings such intensity to the film. Through this part of the story we see that our own pursuit of happiness can create heartbreak for those whom we care about the most. Only by allowing each other to change and accept those changes can we hope to retain the connection we desire. No scene more clearly encapsulates this film as when Ping attempts to persuade Nick not to marry her daughter. Ping doesn't understand that Nick works from home because he is a game developer. She incorrectly assumes he is simply lazy. Her fractured attempts at English only serve to drive the comedy further while her desperation is visible all the while. Tears and laughter exist within the characters and the discussion.

The film's director (and co-writer) states, "I think the most important thing is LOVE. Love doesn't have national boundaries. People everywhere understand romantic love and the love of a parent and child. I've had many mothers approach me at screenings, tears in their eyes and tell me that they understand exactly how Ping feels. That connection with the audience is my true goal." Be that as it may, it's likely no coincidence that Worldfest Houston has the distinction of being the first festival to recognize many luminaries in the directing world; in addition to this year's recognition of Yingli. Steven Spielberg, Lucas, Ang Lee, the Coen Brothers, Ridley Scott, John Lee Hancock, Randal Kleiser, Oliver Stone, David Lynch, and others received their first awards from Worldfest Houston; proof that Yingli Cheng is in excellent company.

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