Entering the room in black heels, a fashionable dress and a large statement hat, Yennefer Fang struts across the grounds of the Cinematic Arts Building ready to discuss her newest film, “My Little Grandma.”
“I came from a small town to Beijing, then to Indiana — Purdue University ... I feel like it’s a very interesting journey because I came from such a small place, to the capital of China, Beijing, then I experience a new culture in Indiana and then finally end up here in the most diverse, biggest city in California.”
Yennefer Fang is a storyteller. She weaves through her history and journey to USC. “I feel like USC is very different,” Fang said. “It’s located in L.A., which is the capital of film. It has all the connections to the industry, and I really appreciate the diversity in USC.”
On May 6, Fang and her classmates will showcase 15 five-minute films they worked on at the Norris Theatre this spring. Fang’s film, “My Little Grandma” was inspired by her relationship with her grandmother and Fang’s experiences as a trans woman. The film makes the audience question what unconditional love really is.
“This story is about international family. This grandmother immigrated to the U.S. very early, so she basically spent her entire life here and her family has all passed away, including her son and her daughter-in-law,” Fang said. “This boy is all she has. And now her grandson is telling her, I want to be a girl. That’s my story, basically.”
Susan Arnold, the producing professor for the film and the vice chair of Film and Television Production at USC, spoke about the significance of Fang’s film.
“She said she wanted to make a film about love, family and cultural difference, which I think she really succeeded in,” Arnold said.
For Fang, cultural differences are a tool in her arsenal as she continues to work on becoming her best self.
“I think I see a lot of things very differently than normal people. I think a lot of people think it’s impossible, like when my classmates say, ‘Oh, I can’t do this,’ I think, ‘If I can change my fucking sex, what else can I do? What can’t I do?’” Fang said. “I already made an impossible thing possible. I can make everything possible.”
While writing and producing her film, Fang was also dealing with a painful new normal here in the U.S. with the increase in anti-Asian hate crimes. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Crime Data Explorer report shows that there has been a significant increase in anti-Asian hate crimes between 2019 and the most recent report in 2021.
Unable to keep her thoughts off of this new reality, Fang discussed how being near this wave of hate crimes has affected her and influenced her filmmaking process.
“The increasing number of attack[s] and also the hatred towards [the] transgender and Asian communities came from the media. I feel like over the past few years–with the influence of COVID, it added on to the hatred,” Fang said.
As a filmmaker, Fang is most inspired by the circumstances surrounding her. Likewise, “My Little Grandma” is inspired by her personal experiences. After finishing the post-production of her film and beginning to brainstorm her next project, she discussed the importance of representation.
“I feel like for the Asian hatred … we’re just people — people who live here. We are all the same. Once you realize this — you realize that we are all human beings living on the earth, living in this country — there’s nothing different between you and me.” Fang said.
Fang is dedicated to using her films to inspire a more positive future while acknowledging the complexities of existing in a world where cultural, religious, racial and societal expectations may cause internal conflict. Her excitement to learn and grow as a student and study all aspects of the human existence has impressed her professors, including the directing professor of “My Little Grandma,” Jose Angel Santana, who called Fang a “delight” to work with.
“I’ve been working with Yennefer throughout the spring semester, and she’s a very smart, capable, and fearless filmmaker and collaborator,” Santana said. “She’s always asking questions about my approach to directing.”
Arnold agrees. While watching Fang interact with her fellow students and pursue this heavy topic for her film, Arnold witnessed Fang embrace her own experience while pairing it with an uplifting message,
“She’s very comfortable in her skin,” Arnold said. “She made her movie about what it felt like to be transgender and have an Asian grandmother. I think it’s very important to her that she speaks honestly and passionately about what she believes.”
During a follow-up interview, Fang appeared more relaxed as she sat down to discuss parts of her personality that she had not divulged before, showing of her sense of humor while engaging with students who passed through the halls.
Inspired by her surroundings, Fang’s eyes brighten as she discusses her familial roots and her ancestral connection to the Qing Dynasty, her passion for Asian culture, her knowledge of the history of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander explorers, learning about different cultural and religious practices, and most of all, her love for voodoo.
The energy she brings to every interaction is the same energy she carries throughout the day.
“She’s a very cool woman”, said Anlan Tao, Fang’s classmate and friend. “She’s very interesting to work with. I feel like the two of us talked a lot about our personal stories before we came to the U.S. We share a common emotional journey.”
As she reaches the end of her first year at USC, Fang is excited to look ahead and see what inspires her next, but for now, Fang excitedly awaits the premiere of her film, “My Little Grandma.”
Fang’s film, “My Little Grandma,” will premiere in the CTPR 546 Screening on May 6 at 7 p.m. at the Norris Theater. To learn more about the premiere, please contact John Watson at email@example.com.