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The Garden Left Behind
Filmmaker Ye Zhu reveals the inner workings of this award-winning film.

Ye Zhu has a natural inclination towards connection. She's crafted the look and tone of advertisements for Mercedes Benz and Vera Wang, award-winning science fiction films like Caihong City, and others. She utilized her creative talent and expertise in film production in spearheading set dressing for the  feature film The Garden Left Behind which has already received a plethora of accolades since its recent premier at the SXSW Film Festival. In addition to receiving the Audience Award at SXSW, this film won Best Feature Film, Best Screenplay, and Best Actress (for Carlie Guevara) at the 14th Annual Sunscreen Film Festival. A modern tale of finding one's own place in the world, The Garden Left Behind allowed Ye to exhibit how her talent transfers to any production she is a part of and make it better. She relates, "Filmmaking is a collaborative art that constantly fascinates me. Being able to anticipate any potential problems and coming up with creative solutions under a pressing timeline give me an adrenaline rush."

Written and directed by the award-winning filmmaker Flavio Alves, The Garden Left Behind is a feature film that displays some of the most poignant struggles in America today. The story follows the relationship between a young Trans woman [Tina] and her grandmother [Eliana] as they navigate Tina's transition while also struggling to build a life for themselves as undocumented immigrants in New York City. Starring Carlie Guevara, the cast also includes Michael Madsen (of Quentin Tarantino'sReservoir Dogs) and Ed Asner (seven-time Emmy Award-winning actor). Notable is the fact that the cast authentically features transgender actors in trans roles and Latin performers in Latin roles. The filmmakers committed to exploring the challenges faced by the transgender community as a whole by capturing their experiences through Tina's journey on screen. The story is a bold look at the challenges of two women who realize that their vision of a new life in America is not at all what they hoped for. Violence, immigration policies, and the hurdles of a complicated romance are depicted with sincerity and honesty in this tale. In addition to its awards at the SXSW Film Festival and the Boston LGBT Film Festival, The Garden Left Behind also received a 5/5 grade from the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.

A subtle yet essential part of any production is the surroundings within which the characters are filmed. Ye Zhu was committed to maintaining a look which would silently validate the believability of these characters for the audience. Flavio Alves professes, "Her artistic insight, resourcefulness, and attention to detail were a key factor in realizing my vision for this story. Ye could always be found in front of the monitor, anticipating any changes that might benefit the appearance of the scene." Whether spontaneously redecorating the composition for a hospital scene, establishing the believability of the coffee shop "money shot", or helping to create the captivating meditation room shot which became the key image of the marketing of the film, Ye's creative eye became inseparable from the work of her fellow filmmakers. The film's DP, Koshi Kiyokawa, relates, "We would discuss the next step or scene and Ye would use her knowledge of lighting design, camera movements, and the desired photographic tone to establish the ideal look for each scene. On a film set that needs to move quickly, it's a remarkable asset to have Ye aboard the team." The cast and crew of The Garden Left Behind have used their immense talents to illuminate a tale which commands attention. It's often the artists rather than reporters who enable the public to recognize and emphasize the struggles, not as common, yet every bit as moving as any told before. 

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