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Community Voices: Raising Awareness with the Power of Media

With a passion for film and photography and a heart for helping the underprivileged, Suhani benefited from the Shanghai Film Festival’s platform to voice the story of Heart to Heart, a non-profit organization that provides funds and financial assistance to Chinese children who require heart surgery to repair their congenital heart defects.  

We had the opportunity to chat with Suhani where she shared more about her Highly Commended documentary “From the Heart” and her journey of raising awareness through media.  

Can you tell us what your documentary is about and why you chose it as your topic?

The documentary focuses on raising awareness for children who suffer from Congenital Heart Disease because around 100,000 children suffer from that disease in China. It is an issue that I could easily target because it is so prominent in my community, and it is an issue that not a lot of people know about. Also, raising awareness on what it is and what is being done before, so the second part of the documentary focuses on partnering with the organization Heart to Heart, which is the organization that focuses specifically on helping these children obtain the surgeries they need because these surgeries can cost up to 30,000 RMB, and that is a lot of money for those family who come from rural areas in China and they cannot afford these surgeries.  

young child looking at camera

Have you participated in other film festivals?

Yes, just a few days ago I submitted another film to The Urban Family Film Festival and the theme was “Future.” Being stuck in lockdown, I was not able to go out, but what I did was I made a futuristic film of what lockdown in a year from now. It is called “Lockdown 23’”, it shows me in 2022 at the beginning of the film and the rest of the film a year from now if the pandemic gets more severe. It is a dystopian action thriller film. There were the implications of artificial intelligence, I used a drone and whatever I had at home to display the idea of this futuristic dystopian world that could very well happen within a year.  


Did you work with anyone else in this documentary?

Within the documentary, there is an interview with Karen Carrington, who is the executive director of Heart to Heart. She leads the volunteers, and she decides all the events that occur within Heart to Heart. Through this process, she helped with what I can include within the film and what Heart to Heart wants to show to other people, not just what the organization does itself, but because it is a 100% non-profit organization, it is driven by volunteers, so she did want that fact to be emphasized through the film, so when other people watch it, they realize “Oh if it is driven by volunteers, I can help too." That is something I tried to emphasize throughout the film through her interview.  

student volunteers posing

What was your reaction when you received the "Highly Recommended" Award?

Naturally, I was generally happy that I was able to get “Highly Recommended”. I know there were awards for first, second, and third, but my main goal was to be published in the film festival so that other people can see it. I was not very upset about not being first, second, or third. I was just very happy with the fact that it was up on the website and a link was provided to it so that people in other schools, and people around Shanghai, who have heard about this film festival have access to my documentary there and if they watch it, then I get to raise more awareness about a topic that I care a lot about.  


What do you like most about filming? What do you like least about filming?

I am definitely a person who prefers to do the editing part. The thing with cinematography itself and recording videos, I do enjoy it of course, but I definitely prefer editing just because I like to experiment with what I can do within the applications. With the actual camera itself, I prefer photography. That is sort of my thing that I like to do with the actual camera.  


Who are your major influencers when it comes to filming? And how have they helped you with your awarded documentary?

I do not have a specific producer or someone in the film industry. But I would say that a family member, my uncle. He also enjoys photography a lot. From a young age, he would have a camera and try to take pictures of me and take pictures together and that was since I was very young. That brought up my interest in photography and that led to media. He still encourages me a lot to take pictures in a specific way that may improve my photography skills. This has brought me to develop my own interest in photography and media. 

person taking picture of skyline through crystal ball

Any tips for aspiring film students?

Choose what you want to do because that is what is going to make you do better and that is what you’re actually going to care about more. Do the best you can and that is what is going to get you a better grade or that is what you are going to be proud of in the end in my opinion, from my experience.  


Where do you find the drive to do all of this?

This whole inclination of my interest in media comes from the fact that I know that other people struggle and that other people are underprivileged with things that they necessarily cannot control, such as their race and nationality. And if that has happened to me on just a minuscule scale, there is a larger scale like being arrested simply because of their race. So, wanting to do something about that and these issues that you can very prominently see in our society. The whole Heart to Heart is an issue that I could easily target and make a bigger difference rather than putting flyers up, which I have done in the past. Through my personal project, I was able to provide surgery to one child and that was so rewarding because of my efforts, someone else was actually able to move on in their life. The sense that you have done something big for someone else is one reason. 


Where can we find your previous work and how can others support Heart to Heart?

I did create an account specifically for Heart to Heart. There is also my photography website which is for Heart to Heart as well because part of my project was selling pictures that I have taken, and all the proceeds go to Heart to Heart, and I did mention that within my documentary as well. If people want to purchase, then that could be another way that I could raise money for Heart to Heart and continue doing so.  


SCIS. Knowledgeable Inquirers.

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