14. March 2015 · Comments Off on Five Questions with Xu · Categories: Documentaries, Five Questions with...
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Fangliang XU portrait“You can call me Xu (pronounced like “shoe”)”, Fangliang Xu tells Ottawa Indie Fest.

“I am a freelance videographer and photographer based in Ottawa. My first camera — a Canon 5D Mark II — was a gift from my grandfather. Since he was too old to travel the world with me, I took my lens as his eyes. It helps me see the world in an interesting way.”

Xu is also a Carleton University Journalism student, who along with three other students (Emanuela Campanella, Sarah Turnbull and Shannon Lough), produced Secret War, a 14-minute documentary about the “War Horse Project”, a therapy program in Pembroke that uses the human-horse bond to help Afghan war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Recently Xu completed production on “The Rink Guy”, a short documentary about a volunteer who looks after a community ice rink.

We asked her a few questions about the film.

Q Can you tell us what the documentary is about?

A “The Rink Guy” is about Ewan Reid, a volunteer caretaker who looks after the McNabb community ice rink in downtown Ottawa and about how much he loves what he is doing.

Q. Why were you interested in telling this story?

A. I am from Wuxi, China. It snows maybe twice a year there, and each time the snow lasts no more than two days. In Ottawa, it also snows twice a year, the first one lasts three months, and the second one lasts another three months.

There are no outdoor rinks in Wuxi – skating on the ice was never my thing, not until I moved to Ottawa. Brutal winter wasn’t my thing either, not until this winter when I decided to just love it.

And making this film is one way I express how much I love it.

Q. What was it like making the film?

A. Making a film about Ewan Reid and his rink is one of the most enjoyable pieces I have ever done. I talked with him for almost an hour, and I was moved a few times during our conversation.

The only challenge I had, I would say, was how to cut a 50-minute interview into 3 minutes. I spent three hours sitting in front of Adobe Audition, going through each word Ewan said, trying to make a decision about what to cut out.

At some point I gave up and changed my strategy – instead of doing minus, I started all over again by doing plus. I picked out all the words that melted my heart in the first place, and put them together.

I know if those words touched me, they could also touch you.

Q. What role did the journalist skills you are learning at Carleton contribute to the making of this film.

A. Carleton has offered and inspired me in too many ways, and I cannot be more grateful for that.

If you like any of the photos in the film, John Kelly is the one who brought me into photography; if you enjoy the rink guy’s voice, Sarah MacFadyen and Mark Valcour were my radio instructors who guided me on audio editing; if you like the little pauses when Ewan talks, Michael Ostroff is the person who taught me how to let the voice-over narration breathe; and Mary McGuire is the first one who showed me the possibility of telling a story through a short slideshow.

Q. Can you tell us about any other documentary projects that you are currently working on?

A. Right now I am working on a 30-minute investigative journalism documentary. The story is about some Chinese businessmen in Canada who are now exporting Canadian baby formula to China due to the large demand in the country. The reason Chinese parents want to feed their baby imported baby formula is because the lack of confidence in their domestic brands after the melamine baby formula scandal in 2008. Nearly 13,000 babies were hospitalized due to kidney stones from the melamine, and four babies died.

I spent last summer in China filming parents, babies, milk factories and one businessman who was involved with the scandal back in 2008. Then I spent this Christmas in Toronto filming a Chinese company which exports Canadian baby formula to China. The piece should be finished by the end of March, 2015.

To learn more about Xu and her work, check out her website at www.fangliangxu.com

©2015 Ottawa Independent Film Festival

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