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.
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!”
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.