On 27 September, Dulwich College Beijing (DCB) hosted a heart-moving evening of film screening. The Remnant, directed by bilingual Chinese-Canadian writer as well as composer, Karmia Chan Olutade, made an incredible hit at the 2016 Portland Film Festival as an official selection out of more than 3,800 submissions. With nearly all cast members being youngsters between the ages of 8 – 18, the film features five students from DCB, which has a strong drama tradition.
The director Karmia Chan Olutade, a Beijing graduate, studied at Stanford University with a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing. She talked about having grown up in Beijing’s expatriate community as a privilege that gave her a strong sense to do something to give back. After Stanford, she came back to China to teach at the Beijing World Youth Academy (BWYA), where she once was a student. Inspired by her 9th graders, she turned to develop this movie for young adults to exercise their energy and talents in a positive way.
The movie was shot at an unbelievable speed, within 16 days after only five months of training and rehearsal. It follows a simple storyline about a group of orphans who work, cleaning out garbage out of waste water for reuse, in a land that hasn’t seen rain in seven years. The orphans resort to seeking freedom, as well as long-lost parental love. But, as Olutade pointed out, the deeper meaning is to awaken people’s awareness of how much is actually understood on the far reaching consequences of mankind losing its dignified environment, water and home.
Olutade proudly complimented how the movie had witnessed great perseverance from the student cast, who had to work at night and sleep in the daytime as required by the movie while dancing under the hot sun in desert. “Often we hear that people say teenagers are rebellious, etc. But during our film shooting, they demonstrated a completely different picture. They were so hard working through repeated rehearsals while keeping a clear goal in mind, knowing why they do this (to change the world). Their parents saw positive changes from them.”
DCB’s year-12 student Kayla Cao starred as the protagonist in the film. She reflected on the shooting process with great joy and glowing eyes, “People often say the phrase ‘mother earth’ but that didn’t really make much sense to me before I took part in the film. We went through some extreme experiences during shooting, such as going on fast in order to experience the feeling of hunger and thirst. But we all enjoyed the process so much as first-time actors and actresses. The experience of working through a film production from beginning to end was so meaningful. It gave me the interest to explore further in areas such as cinematography when I go to college.”
Born in Canada and moved to Beijing at the age of 2, Kayla said the movie also helped her to better find her Chinese roots, to know who she is in the world not only for now, but also for the future.
Claire Dvorchak, year 11 at DCB, is another student who played a major role in the film, where she sings three solo songs. She commented on the shooting experience as “amazing” and said it improved her confidence, so now she loves singing so much that she sings almost everyday. As the movie is centered on orphans, Claire credited the film for changing her perspective on family, allowing her to be “more appreciative of my family”.
(Kayla Cao and Clair Dvorchak at the night of DCB’s film screening)
(Photos: Courtesy of the DCB and The Remnant production team)
To learn more about the film at http://www.theremnantmovie.com