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Archive for January, 2012

I’m a Dangerous Woman

Monday, January 30th, 2012

by Nancy Werking Poling

Mining for coal via mountaintop removal at Kay...

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Looking at me, a short older woman with curly hair and red glasses, you probably wouldn’t guess that I’m dangerous.

For one thing I like Europe. I like its efficient transportation systems with comfortable express trains crisscrossing the continent. Less pollution, less hassle.

And there’s the Continent’s medical system. In Great Britain the clinic charged nothing to treat my shingles. When I came down with a strep infection in Poland, the doctor apologized for charging me the equivalent of thirteen dollars, my not being a European and all. A friend tells of having spent three days in a Swedish hospital and getting excellent care for $7000. (A three-day stay in an L.A. hospital cost my insurance company over $20,000 for a wrong diagnosis, and that didn’t include doctor fees.)

I guess I should have tried harder to find evidence that Europeans lack the freedoms I enjoy. Yes, our Dutch and German friends pay higher taxes and their homes are smaller, but I came away envying their quality of life.

I’ve been hearing on TV that my fondness for Things European means I’m a socialist. And that makes me a danger to America.

Of course the fact that I’ve been to Europe puts me among The Elite. I’ve been hearing on TV that The Elite think they’re superior to other people and better qualified to run their lives. I’m not sure what people I’m supposed to think I’m superior to, only that I’m a danger to America.

The nature of my worries also poses a threat. I’m concerned about people who work hard for low wages and can’t pay their heating bill, can’t afford a reliable car to get them to work. I want government to issue food stamps and extend unemployment benefits to help my neighbors get through these hard economic times.

Such an opinion promotes class warfare, I’ve heard on TV. And that makes me a danger to America.

I worry about the water, the food, the air my grandchildren breathe. I want someone, an expert, to monitor these things. I want the power plants whose emissions pass over head not to contain mercury or other harmful gases.

I worry about the mountains surrounding the town where I live. I should be content to let business have free rein over exploiting the coal and timber. But no, I want resources removed responsibly so the mountains’ beauty will remain for future generations.

My appreciation for Europe; a desire for government to help people during hard times; a wish for assurance that the air, the water, the mountains are protected from pollution and exploitation.

All that, I hear, makes me a danger to America.


Nancy Werking Poling is author of Had Eve Come First and Jonah Been a Woman and Out of the Pumpkin Shell, both available where books are sold.

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Mulberry Child Premiered in Chicago

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

At the reception of Mulberry Child

At 7 p.m. on Saturday, January 21, the reception area at the Gene Siskel Film Center became alive with the arrival of our friends, friends’ friends and Mulberry Child’s viewers who had all managed to purchase their tickets in advance.

We had a pre-screening reception, sponsored by Wintrust Commercial Bank. Our first screening in Chicago was sold out three weeks before the scheduled date. Each of us, my executive director Ellis, my daughter Lisa, and I, had received emails or phone calls from friends who tried to get help from us to buy tickets. Unfortunately, we didn’t have access to any—they were all sold out. In the end, I even gave my ticket to a friend.

I was very touched by the support we had received in Chicago and the overwhelmingly positive response from the audience at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis and more recently, the Palm Springs International Film Festival where we had sold out screenings and was selected as “Best of the Fest”, an honor bestowed to only 14 films out of 188 from 73 countries at the festival. We were thrilled.

With Lisa and her friends

Last week in Chicago, shortly before our premiere, we were overjoyed to read Roger Ebert‘s review of Mulberry Child, with a rating of 3.5 stars out of 4. My director Susan was in tears when she heard the news. “Roger Ebert is my god,” she said, referring to his highly-respected film critic voice in the industry.  “You have no idea what an honor that is,” she said to me.

I think I got the idea when Phil Ponce, anchor of the Chicago Tonight Show, opened his interview with me about the film with Roger Ebert’s rating last week.

“This is a powerful and touching film,” Roger Ebert wrote.

We were all “over the moon,” to use a word Ellis said. Indeed, we all felt overjoyed and honored.

At the reception on Saturday, I did the best I could welcome people, only to regret that I had no time or opportunity to introduce them to Susan and Ellis.

I was especially pleased that Lisa introduced me to a few of her friends.

“Tell me if you still love her after watching the film,” I joked with them.

“They will,” Lisa cut in, a big smile crossing her face. “Because they are my friends!”

With my friend and fellow writer Jennifer Anton

We had plenty of food and drink at the reception. Shortly before 8 p.m., everyone walked into the theatre for the screening. Lisa, my supportive husband Francis, Chao, an ITT student who was working with me throughout the evening, and I were the only people remained in the reception area. Lisa and I had both given out our tickets to our friends, and even if we had tickets, we might not have the nerve to watch the film with so many people who know personally, a big difference from attending film festivals at other cities.

We walked into the theatre for Q & A a few minutes before the end of the film. The theatre was very quiet, except for an occasional sniffing from one seat or another, indicating someone was crying. A mere glance on the screen on which my father was giving me his last wave shortly before his passing brought tears to my eyes.

We had a long Q & A session and most of the people in the audience stayed until the last minute.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!

Roger Ebert’s full review:

Interview with Phil Ponce on Chicago Tonight Show, WTTW:

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China.

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At Palm Springs International Film Festival (final)

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Audience lined up to watch Mulberry Child at PSIFFWe finished PSIFF with a bang!

In the afternoon of Saturday, Jan. 14, the eagerly expected list of the “Best of the Fest” was announced. We, the entire crew of Mulberry Child, were thrilled to see (or hear from immediate phone calls or emails) that Mulberry Child was among the 14 narrative and documentary films included in the “Best of the Fest”. There were more than 180 films attending PSIFF, and we all felt so excited and honored that Mulberry Child was regarded as one of the best films at this prestigious festival!

Today Camelot and Regal, the two theatres engaged with PSIFF, will be showing the “Best of the Fest” starting at 10 a.m. Mulberry Child is scheduled for screening at 6 p.m. at the Camelot theatre. See list and screening time at the link below:

Lisa answering audience's question after a screening of Mulberry Child

We are looking forward to the screenings of Mulberry Child at the Gene Siskel Film Center on Jan. 21, 24 and 26 (tickets for Jan. 21 have been sold out, but the other two days are still available) in Chicago, and at the Sedona International Film Festival in February.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. The feature-length documentary film based on the book is directed by Susan Morgan Cooper and narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.

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AT Palm Springs International Film Festival (4)

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

Lisa and "Nainai"

We had our second sold-out screening at the Regale 9 theatre on Tuesday, Jan. 10. I watched the film on the large screen for the 5th time and found myself still shedding tears at a few scenes that were so personal to me.

We had a long and animated Q & A session after the screening. A special surprise and delight for me for this screening was to meet “Nainai”, who was 80 years old. Her daughter and son-in-law accompanied her all the way from Los Angeles to attend the screening. I loved her grandmotherly image in the film and was thrilled to hug her and call her “Nainai.”

At Regale 9 Theater

I was able to watch a couple of other films at the Festival while Lisa worked away at her computer or on conference calls most of the time, taking care of her daytime job. During the first 4 days of the film festival, we had two television interviews with KVCR_TV host Gloria Greer and local CBS,  and two radio interviews with Charlie Dyer and Bill Feingold at KNEWS FM 94.3, and attended Variety‘s photo op at the critics’ award luncheon where we faced numerous cameras like a movie star.

We received a lot of positive feedback on the film from fellow filmmakers, festival staff and the audience. We also got several invitations to attend other film festivals. We were thrilled by the response.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into a feature-length documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.

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AT Palm Springs International Film Festival (3)

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Jian, Susan and Lisa, brushing shoulders with the stars at PSIFF

I heard the cheers and yelling from the balcony of my hotel room before arriving at the 23rd Annual International Awards Gala. I realized the walk on the red carpet had already started. Lisa and I rushed to the hotel lobby in our evening gowns and high heels and joined Susan to go to the Palm Springs Convention Center located half a block away where the Awards Gala was held.

The dark night was illuminated by flashlights from countless cameras as hundreds of people lined up on both sides of the street to watch the arrival of film stars. Everyone attending the Gala appeared as glamorous in their tuxedos and evening dresses as the stars.

The stars. I had never seen any film stars in person before. Watching them step out of their stretch limos and hearing the roar of the crowd, it felt so unreal. Through a forest of raised cameras, I saw George Clooney posing for the paparazzi, Tom Hanks waving, and Jessica Chastain smiling…. Lisa couldn’t resist the temptation to take snap shots of a few stars with her iPhone.

We filed into the Convention Center slowly, accompanied by the clicking and flashing of cameras. We found Ellis and Gillian, already inside, waiting for us at the entrance of the enormous auditorium where formal dinning tables were set up for a record attendance of 1,900 people. A large bunch of purple tulips was displayed on each table as a center piece, lightening up the atmosphere. Waiters dressed in white and black uniforms managed to walk around offering various appetizers, and people gathered in small groups chatting or looking for more opportunities to see the stars.

We eventually made our way to our table, 401, at the 4th row from the front, a very good seating. Lisa disappeared from us to take more photos of the celebrities as they walked to their tables.

Harold Matzner, Chairman of the Festival, gave a welcome speech; Mary Hart acted as MC of the ceremony. As the evening unfolded, numerous actors and filmmakers were presented with awards, including Gary Oldman, Glenn Close, Brat Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Michelle Williams. As their awards were being announced by equally renowned actors such as Tom Hanks and Al Pacino, clippings of their performances were presented on the three large screens in the front. Waves of cheers and applause filled the auditorium.

It was amazing to see all these stars in person, and surprisingly, they appeared somehow smaller in real life than their images on the film screen.

Hours later, as we walked out of the auditorium to attend the “by-invitation only” after party at the Parker Hotel, my feet were killing me. I wonder how many of the women, who were walking with their heads up and chests high, were experiencing the same kind of pains.

Once outside, I was surprised to see hundreds of people were still waiting outside behind the security lines to see the stars. Despite the exerted efforts of traffic control, numerous limos stood still on the street, unable to move on. There was no way for Ellis to get his car anytime soon, so we walked the short distance to our hotel. By the time he finally came to take us to the after party, Susan and I had changed into more comfortable shoes, though Lisa braved through the rest of the night in her high heels.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been made into a feature-length documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.

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At Palm Springs Int’l Film Festival (2)

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Jian and Jodi who performed Jian as a child met at the theatre at PSIFF

I arrived at the Regal Theatre to attend the 1st screening of Mulberry Child shortly after 12 noon on Saturday and was surprised to see two long lines of people in front of the entrance. I had never been to this theatre before and thought one had to wait to get in for all the screenings.

“Jennifer,” a man in the line waved to me.

It took me a second to recognize Sean Valla, my film editor. I met Sean quite a few times during the editing process of the film in Los Angeles and was always impressed by his dedication and patience combing through mountains of footage and the endless close ups of my face for all the interviews that my director Susan conducted.

I was thrilled to see him and surprised to learn the two lines were all for entry to the screening of Mulberry Child: one line for ticket holders and the other, people standing by for the possibility of getting in at the last minute, for tickets had been sold out the week before. My heart skipped a beat.

By the time I managed to get into the theatre, my executive producer Ellis and his wife Gillian and Susan were already there. I saw the theatre was nearly full and felt sorry that many people waiting outside wouldn’t be able to come in.

Susan tapped me on my shoulder. “I want you to meet Jodi,” she said.

I looked at the little girl by her side. Jodi performed the 6-year-old me in the film and I had never met her before.

I wrapped Jodi in my arms. “You did a wonderful job,” I murmured in her ear.

Jodi gave her shy smile and looked at me with an expression I had seen so many times on the screen.

Jian and Lisa after Q & A when Jian signed books for interested viewers

I scanned the audience and was thrilled to see a few familiar faces, including Quyen Tran, my cinematographer and her husband, Sam, Eli Bergmann, my book editor, and his girlfriend Lily. They had driven all the way from Los Angeles to watch the film. I also noticed Chaz Ebert sitting next to Ellis, and a couple rows below, Norman Mark and his beautiful wife Grace. I was all the support.

Half way through the film, Lisa was ushered into the theatre. She had just flown in from Chicago this morning to attend the Q & A and I was relieved that she made it on time.

As it was at the Heartland Film Festival, many people in the audience asked questions about the film, my parents and their views on the Cultural Revolution, and Lisa’s on-going process of identifying with her Chinese roots. When the Q & A session ended, quite a few people lingered behind and continued the discussion. Once Chinese man’s comments particularly touched me.

“I also come from the Northeast of China,” he said, as we shook hands. “I was sent to the countryside for six years,” he continued. “I very much like the presentation of that historical period in your film as it was done sensibly, not an over kill.”

It meant so much to me the remark came from someone who had lived through the Cultural Revolution in China.

Once again, I was overwhelmed and touched by the reaction from the audience.

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At Palm Springs International Film Festival

Saturday, January 7th, 2012
Welcome to Palm Springs!

Image by bamalibrarylady via Flickr

I arrived to the beautiful sunshine at Palm Springs yesterday afternoon. After checking in at the Renaissance Hotel and getting my credentials at the hospitality room at the hotel, I got together with Ellis, my film executive producer, and Susan, my director.

We started this exciting film festival by attending a private party in the home of Brenda, a former film commissioner in Illinois. Brenda lives in Palm Springs now, but because of her Chicago ties, there were many people from Chicago and the midwest were there, including Chaz Ebert, Roger Ebert’s wife and Morman Mark, a former Chicago TV host and journalist. I was trilled to meet her and many others.

Listing of Mulberry Child in the program of PSIFF

Early this morning, I went out for a hike on a trail behind the Art Museum, about 6 blocks away from the hotel. I waited until daylight to get on the trail and was soon captivated by the tranquility of the sprawling mountain ranges around me. I was relieved to see another hiker half way up a hill and watched him disappear as I stopped to admire the scenes of the valley.

Despite my fear of getting lost, I couldn’t resist the temptation of going higher and reaching one and then another peak. When I finally sat down on the flat surface of a large rock, I found myself bathed in the warmth of the rising sun. I extended my arms toward the blue sky, my thoughts turning to my grandmother and father, wishing that somewhere up there, they could see me and know I was here to tell their life stories on the screen to a large audience.  Memories of my childhood flooded back, with grandma’s smiling face vividly in my mind. Watching the valley below me—dotted with palm trees and swimming pools, I found it hard to believe this was reality. Tears came to my eyes as I told Grandma that her legacy would live on through generations to come…

The first screening of Mulberry Child is at 12:30 p.m. today. As I descended quickly down the trail, I wiped away the tears of gratitude and joy and felt more determined and energized than ever before.

Jian Ping, author Mulberry Child: a Memoir of Child.

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Young Women, Listen Up

Friday, January 6th, 2012

by Nancy Werking Poling

English: Official ballot for the 2000 United S...

Image via Wikipedia

Young women, is there any chance you’ll listen to a little old lady who has trouble managing the functions of her cell phone and whose fashion style is dictated by comfort?

Like you I once worked all day, came home to fix dinner (often frozen fish sticks and French fries), broke up the kids’ fights, and enforced the number of hours they could watch TV. When the evening news came on, I was often in heated argument over homework versus another hour of playing outside. My reading included escape novels, books on parenting, and women’s magazines, like Family Circle and Ladies Home Journal.

But age is a teacher. As events unfold we learn what we should have paid attention to, what we should have ignored. I have learned the importance of keeping up with events beyond workplace and household.

Even after 1920, when American women gained the right to vote, many depended on fathers or husbands to make informed political decisions. The notion of men are rational and women are emotional pervaded the political scene. Hence, until recently men occupied all the seats of our national and state legislatures, as well as our courts. Even today women are minimally represented.

Nowadays people are saying, “I’m so fed up with politicians I don’t pay any attention to the news anymore.” Women dare not take that risk. Where money goes, who’s accountable, what’s cut from the budget and what’s retained—these issues impact us directly. Are courts siding with women in issues related to sexual and domestic violence? Discrimination in the workplace? Are women’s reproductive rights being threatened? Will our children be less able to compete in the future job market given cuts in education?

Don’t assume, young women, that just because you have more opportunities than your mother and your grandmother that your future is secure.

Here’s what you can do:

1)     Google topics such as “current women’s issues” and “child advocacy.” LinkedIn and Facebook have groups that share information.

2)     Learn as much as you can about the issue(s). Read a variety of viewpoints, not just articles that support your opinion.

3)     Avoid sound bytes. Their intent is to sway you without giving you adequate information. Read or listen to in-depth coverage. Question easy solutions.

4)     Cast an informed vote.

Something else I’ve learned over the years: Women can’t depend on men to know what’s in our interest.



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Mulberry Child Screenings

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

The feature-length documentary film Mulberry Child started 2012 with a bang.

It kicked off the year with the star-filled Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) beginning on January 5. Mulberry Child has the honor of being officially selected and a week before the start of the Festival, tickets for the two screenings at the Regale 9 theatre were sold out! A blessed headache, for my executive producer has been receiving emails and phone calls from friends who couldn’t get tickets anymore.

Shortly after the PSIFF, we will return to Chicago to participate in the “Stranger than Fiction” documentary series. Mulberry Child has three scheduled screenings, 8 p.m. on Jan. 21, 8:15 p.m. on Jan. 4, and 8 p.m. on Jan. 26. Even before our press release being sent out to any media, many tickets have been purchased in advance. Last night I received a call from Ray, a long-time friend who informed me that he had gathered a group of 21 people to come to the Saturday show on Jan. 21. “I called the theatre on Sunday and learned only 40 tickets were left for the screening on Jan. 21,” he said. (posting and trailer of lm at Siskel Center:

I was touched by such interest and support. I know many of my friends and readers are coming to the screenings at the Siskel Center. I am excited and nervous at the same time. Unlike attending to screenings at other cities where I don’t know any audience personally, or rather, anyone in the audience don’t know me personally, Chicago shows will be different. I wonder how my friends will react to the film and the relationship between my daughter, Lisa, and me!

I’ll have my chance to find that out, for Lisa and I, together with my director Susan who will fly in from Los Angeles, will be at each screening for Q & A. I can hardly wait!

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China.

Back from China

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Pearl River covered in smog in the middle of a day in Guangzhou

It’s been nearly a month since my last posting, the longest elapse of time ever! It’s scary to think how time flies.

I was in China most of the time in December, visiting Beijing (a couple of business meetings with publishers and a fun day with my childhood girlfriend Xiuyan), Changchun (spending a week of cozy time with my mother and sisters and extended family members), Guangzhou (visiting my sister Ping’s family, including her 3-year-old grandson whom I met for the 1st time), and Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macau for fun.

I had a great time and was once again amazed by the speed of development in each of the cities in mainland China. However, I was also appalled by the extent of the air pollution in every single city I visited and the large crowd of people everywhere I turned. Many times I had to be careful not to bounce into others walking on the streets or in any public area. My lungs were congested from day one and by the time I left, I was coughing like an old lady and suffering from a bad cold. I wonder how these cities can support such large population in 10 or 20 years!

Children singing Christmas songs at our hotel in HK

I love traveling despite the hassles that are bound to happen when you are on the road; however, each time after an extended period of time being away, I also love the feeling of returning home. This time, I was particularly appreciative of the chilly yet much fresher air I breathed upon landing in Chicago.

Jian Ping is the author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Mulberry Child has been developed into a feature-length documentary film by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.

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