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WILL YOU LOOK AT ME a film by SHULI HUANG. 2022. China. 20 min. An enchanting confessional about queer love and family in China.

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Winner of both the Queer Palm at Cannes in 2022 and the Short Film Jury Award at Sundance last year, rising Chinese filmmaker Shuli Huang’s Will You Look At Me maps his post-college emotional turmoil as he contends with his parents’ disapproval of his homosexuality and his choice to pursue art over a more traditional career path.

 

Bringing together short bursts of scintillating Super 8 imagery with a confessional voice-over, Huang creates a spellbinding representation of his contradictory feelings toward his mother — he loves her but resents her unwillingness to fully embrace him — that doubles as a beautiful portrait of a rarely depicted Beijing that is populated by young artists. Because of its small gauge, much of Will You Look At Me’s delight results from its quick and engrossing rhythm, which Huang says manifested “its own shape naturally” after he put together a rough cut.

 

 

 

“After I returned to China from New York during the pandemic, I bought a Super 8mm camera. I brought it with me everywhere I went, filming people around me almost without a precise intention in mind. Eventually, as my need to discuss my truth with my family got too big, I put my hand to the celluloid I’d been stacking in my suitcase and started drafting a letter seeded inside me years ago.” SHULI HUANG

 

As a coming-out narrative in which the filmmaker confronts his mother about her inability to accept him, there is an inherently distressing quality to Will You Look At Me. But, it is Huang’s heartfelt sincerity and courage that ultimately defines his film. In the climactic conversation with his mother, Huang recalls he saw “deep fears and pains in her eyes where [his] language and words failed to be reached.” And, it was at that moment that he realized making a film would allow him to relay emotions limited by language. Will You Look At Me expresses Huang’s yearning to be accepted with eloquence, not only through stylistic flair but by bluntly embodying the emotional depths of his heart.

 

Shuli Huang was born in Wenzhou, China, in 1997. He studied cinematography at the Beijing Film Academy and earned an MFA  from New York University’s Graduate Film Program. His feature debut as a cinematographer, Farewell, My Hometown (2021), won the New Currents Award at the Busan International Film Festival. His most recent short film, Goodbye First Love (2024), premiered in competition at this year’s Berlinale. He is currently developing his first feature under the mentorship of Ira Sachs.

 

Text written by Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer.