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Film about China's first feminist coming to campus

On Saturday, the Chinese Language Flagship Partner Program will host a free screening of the independent film “Autumn Gem.”

The film explores the life of Qiu Jin, China’s first feminist. During the early part of the 20th century, Jin challenged gender roles, demanding equal rights and opportunities for women.

During Jin’s life she also encouraged women to become politically active, and “was the first woman to lead a major armed uprising against the imperial dynasty,” according to the “Autumn Gem” Web site.

However, Jin was caught before she could carry out her plan, and was executed at the age of 32. She is seen as being the “first female martyr for China’s modern revolutionary cause,” according to the Web site.

Rae Chang and her husband, Adam Tow, are responsible for bringing the story of Jin to life. Chang said that growing up in the United States, she never heard the story about Jin, but after reading about her in a book of famous Chinese women, Chang took an interest in her.

“When you think of China, you usually don’t think about feminism,” Chang said.

In 2003, Chang decided to create a short 10-minute film about Jin’s life. Then, in 2007, after putting the idea of Jin away for awhile, Chang decided to expand her short film and create a whole new full-length feature film.

Chang recruited her husband to work on the film and quit her job as a graphic designer to be able to be able to give her full attention to the project. Because the couple funded the movie on their own, they had to be able to do every aspect of making a movie, including pre- and post-production, along with filming it, entirely on their own.

The film, which took more than two years to make, is comprised of interviews with historical scholars, recreation scenes of Jin’s life and historical photos. The film is narrated in English, but contains dialogue in Mandarin with both English and Chinese subtitles.

The movie was filmed in both the United States and in China. Chang said she and her husband decided to travel to China in order to visit the ancestral home of Jin and to be able to interview historical scholars for the film.

Chang said one of the most difficult aspects of filming the movie, along with permits, releases and dealing with outside noises, was being able to make modern day San Francisco look like 20th century China.

Although “Autumn Gem” is Chang and Tow’s first film, Chang hopes it will not be their last.

“It was a fun adventure to go through,” Chang said.

When asked what kind of advice she would give to students considering making their own film, Chang said that “finding a subject that you’re really excited about” is a great place to start.

“Autumn Gem” will be screened at 2 p.m. in room 170 of Lattie F. Coor Hall on the Tempe Campus and is open to the public.

Both Chang and Tow will be available for a Q&A session after the screening.

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