Director Li Lu Wants to Show that Asian Americans Can Make Any Kind of Film


The Los Angeles Asian Film Festival kicked off Thursday night, and one of the films that is world premiering over the next week is Li Lu’s first feature There Is A New World Somewhere, starring Agnes Bruckner (Blue Car). It’s about a young aspiring artist living in New York who returns to her hometown of Austin, Texas, feeling like she has nothing to show for her two years of hard work, pursuing her dreams in the big city. She meets a mysterious stranger and decides to escape on a road trip with him.

The USC grad was born in China but came to the US at a young age, where she moved around a lot, living everywhere from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Eugene, Oregon to Sugar Land, Texas.

“I wanted to write a film that portrayed the South the way I saw it…. Coming from the East Coast at the time, I had all these misconceptions and stereotypical ways of thinking about the South, and although some parts of it are true — and I experienced it first-hand — I was moreso met with an era of kindness and acceptance and a deep spirituality that isn’t really tied to any one religion. It’s Southern hospitality at its best. So I wanted to make a film that portrayed my version of the South through the locations that these two people go to.”

Though it’s not an Asian American film, she wants people to know that they did open casting for all ethnicities.

“I really wanted to find the strongest actress and actor for these particular roles. Maurice Compte, who plays Esteban, is an amazing Cuban American actor. He was born in New Orleans and hadn’t been back since he was born. Agnes Bruckner, who plays Sylvia, is amazing. She speaks fluent Hungarian, her parents are Hungarian and Russian, so she brings that ethnic background into the film.”

And as a young creative person who names Ang Lee as an idol, Li Lu believes it’s good for Asian Americans directors to be making all different types of films.

“When someone looks at an Asian or Asian American filmmaker, they expect to see an Asian American film, and I think that’s a little reductive and confining to say you can only tell this kind of story. Shouldn’t it say something that Asian American filmmakers can now make any kind of film and succeed in doing so? That’s my hope with the film at this festival — to show not only the public, but ourselves, that we don’t have to be pigeonholed anymore. We can do anything we want, because make-believe is make-believe.

Click here for more information of the LAAPFF screenings.

Lu will also be speaking at the “Women in the Director’s Chair” panel, co-hosted by Film Fatales, on April 25.

For more of the interview, go to Asia Pacific Arts.