Gravitas in Film: Rui Cui
Filmmaker Rui Cui is an artist in every sense of the word. His voice is prominent and unfiltered, presented in a tone that is simultaneously disconcerting, intelligent, and controlled. A native of Beijing who has spent years studying both the film techniques of Chinese and US film industries/artists, this director has become a synthesis of both cultures as a professional and cultural creative voice. His ability to manifest topical and provocative stories has attracted acclaimed actors from around the world to work with him on his films. You’ll often find acclaimed artists in front of the camera and behind it on a Rui Cui led production.
This award-winning director (Cui received the 2016 Pierre and Mary Cossette Endowed Scholarship for Cinematic Arts and the Panavision New Filmmaker Grant) possesses a strong visual style, color schemes, thematic ties, and usage of poetic sequences. His work has often been noted in the press for its aim to reinvent cultural tradition and intercultural divide/conflict. In Rui’s film To Pimp a Butterfly he worked with Academy Award winning director/producer Mark Jonathan Harris. The production starred acclaimed Asian-American actress Bai Ling (known for her work in Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith [global box office hit earning $849MM], Oliver Stone’s Nixon, and Spike Lee’s She Hate Me) in the title role of Butterfly (aka Lam). To Pimp a Butterfly was an instant hit landing a Best Actress at 2017’s LA Shorts International festival for Bai Ling and a number of awards for the film and its director (Film of the Year at the 2017 China-US Film Festival of Young Cinema and Best Director at 2017 Global Shorts and 2017 China-US Film Festival of Young Cinema). This story of a teenage Asian-American boy who assumes the role of family protector sheds light on immigration, crime, and morals in the US.
Rui also received recognition (Best Short Film, 2016 Canada International Film Festival, Best Short Film, 2016 International Family Film Festival) for his film Father Knows Best. A decidedly more lighthearted story than To Pimp a Butterfly, Father Knows Best is a family comedy about a middle-aged Chinese immigrant named Mr. Zhang who tries to preserve the relationship between his daughter Jen, a westernized Asian-American girl, and Bradley, a spirited (if somewhat naïve) American with traditional values. It’s a comedy about cultural clash between father and daughter. The film presents the opposite end of the immigrant experience in America.
Exploring the issues which everyone deals with simply as part of the human race is also present in numerous offerings from this acclaimed director. In After Rachel (awarded Best Social Issue Film at the 2016 Bare Bone International Film & Music Festival), a man attempts to hide the reality of his wife’s fate from his hostile, Alzheimer’s-ridden father-in-law. 2017’s Point and Dream is the wishful tale of a little girl who believes she can give all the homeless people somewhere to live simply by pointing at them. Rui shot this award-winning film for Alibaba Pictures in conjunction the Pasadena Community Foundation to address the hope of solving homelessness. A much darker storyline was presented in last year’s Free Choice, the ultra-tense slightly futuristic tale of four inmates competing in a game of Russian Roulette for a winner take all prize of freedom. The dialogue driven plot is an investigation into human actions and reasoning. Among the cast members is renowned Hollywood actor Evgeniy Lazarev (as Serge, the Russian Spy) known for his work in the Academy Award Nominated Iron Man 2, Lord of War, and The Saint (1997) among others. Born in 1937, Lazarev was one of the most famous actors in Russia and has continued this trend in America.
Currently, Rui is preparing a Chinese sci-fi/thriller/crime film entitled Delusion. Describing his goal, he notes, “I hope to use the cinema language to tell stories that can tackle cultural clash and speak to audiences of many languages. If you create a truly great film it doesn’t matter if you’re working in Hollywood, China, or a number of other places…people will embrace a great story. I want to work wherever that is happening.”