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Mulberry Child on PBS

Saturday, May 17th, 2014
Jian Ping, Ellis Goodman & Lisa Xia greeting attendees

Jian Ping, Ellis Goodman & Lisa Xia greeting attendees

It feels unreal to watch my life story on television. In Chicago, WTTW (Channel 11), the local PBS station, broadcast Mulberry Child three times. I watched it twice. The first time, half of the film, and the second, in its entirety. I tried to watch the film from an “objective” perspective, as if I were watching someone else’s story. It worked at certain parts, but at some very strong personal moments, such as scenes in which Lisa and I get into an argument, images of my father waving gently, a few days before his passing, and my mother, pushing open a door to look out, as if expecting her grown up children to come back, tears still welled up in my eyes.

What touches me most is the outpouring of emotion and support that I’ve received from viewers and friends, and they are still arriving in my email on a daily basis since the broadcast of the film and online streaming on PBS.org started on May 1. The flash page of Mulberry Child on PBS doesn’t have my email address. Many people went out of their way to locate it from my book or film website to send me their thoughts and comments. I received many emails before, mostly from friends and viewers in Chicago where the film had more than twenty screenings at different venues, including a weeklong engagement to the public at the Gene Siskel Film Center. But it feels so differently when the emails come from strangers throughout the country.

At reception

At reception

The broadcast of Mulberry Child, which started on May 1 on PBS, will continue nationwide through the month. Each PBS station has its own schedule, and in addition, the World Channel, an affiliation of PBS, scheduled multiple screenings in many cities. The first email I received was on the first of broadcasting, from a woman named Sanviki. “I just watched Mulberry Child on PBS,” she started. “It is difficult to express my exact response—thoughts and feelings at this time; all I can say at this time is that the movie had a profound affect upon me… I felt compiled to write to you, I needed to let you know that your work is important and that I bid you the inspiration to continue in your journey of awareness, self-expression and truth—especially as it relate to deepening the development of love for yourself, your daughter and others.”

Many more followed.

Lisa chatting with attendees

Lisa chatting with attendees

 

“I wanted to personally thank you for sharing your profound life story of resilience and hope.”

“I watched your movie and my heart went out. I would love learn more and see more.”

“My wife and I just watched Mulberry Child. It moved and reminded us emotionally to appreciate the gifts and sacrifices by our parents.”

“I watched Mulberry Child documentary on PBS this morning and was moved to tears more than once. Watching you with your daughter made me miss my mother terribly so I cried for that loss. I also cried for the trials of your family and for those of all the Chinese people during that terrible time.”

Jian with Grace and He

Jian with Grace and He

I don’t know where these viewers live or who they are beside their names, but their resonance with Mulberry Child and their sharing of emotion touched me deeply. I made sure to respond to everyone’s email personally.

When WTTW in Chicago premiered at 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 8, we held a reception and screening at Ganz Hall, Roosevelt University, celebrating the milestone with appetizers, wine, and Tsingtao Beer. About 150 people attended the event. Once again, I was touched that quite a few friends who had seen the film more than once, including a recent screening at the Harold Washington Library Center on May 1, came again to show support.

I was thrilled that my daughter Lisa, who had moved to work in Frankfurt, Germany since March, happened to be back in Chicago and was able to join me at the reception and conduct the 40-minute long discussion after the screening with me. People connected with our story in different ways, based on their background and experience. But the outpour of emotion was so moving. Several viewers in the audience paused to chock back tears when they made comments and raised questions. Lisa shed tears, too, and I had to exert more control to suppress mine.

Moments like this made me realize that it’s certainly worthwhile to throw our personal life on to the screen. I feel so fortune that our story is inspiring others on their personal journey and relationships, not to mention that the process of making and showing the film has brought Lisa and I much closer!

My heart-felt thanks to you all.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary movie by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. The movie is shown on PBS nationwide in May, 2014. Visit PBS.org for more information.

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Q & A at Harper College

Thursday, April 25th, 2013
Lisa and I with Judy, Richard and Sveta after the screening at Harper College

Lisa and I with Judy, Richard and Sveta after the screening at Harper College

It took Lisa and me more than two hours getting from downtown Chicago to Harper College in Palatine, a northwestern suburb about 30 miles away last Wednesday to attend the screening and Q & A of Mulberry Child. The constant rain turned the traffic bumper to bumper. We missed the opening of the show, but made it there in time to do the Q & A.

I was impressed that so many people showed up in this terrible weather (we’d learn later how many areas were flooded) and more impressed that the Q & A lasted an hour and a few in the audience continued the discussion at the book signing table, and the staff and faculty members at Harper College, including Dr. Richard Johnson and Judy Kulchawik, stayed with us and joined the conversations all the way to the end. The event was scheduled from 6 to 9 pm. By the time we left the campus building, it was well after 10 pm.

The audience was a mix of students and members from the nearby community. A few Chinese in the audience asked questions relating to advice on how to raise the next generation in the U.S. and pass on to them the Chinese heritage. One Chinese mother shared similar experience to that of ours, revealing an interesting situation in which her son has all Asian friends, but her daughter, all Americans. Puzzled, she asked Lisa if she has ever had Asian boyfriends, explaining she didn’t mean to probe into her personal life, but she was curious to know. I laughed, telling the audience this is why I love to do Q & A with Lisa, for I could imagine Lisa would roll her eyes if I ever dared to bring up such a question. These Q & A sessions have provided us a true venue to hear each other while we address questions from the audience.

Lisa and I doing Q & A

Lisa and I doing Q & A

Typical of Lisa, a professional in public relations, she answered the question diplomatically yet straightforward. The audience laughed and let her off the hook.

One young man from Greece shared his experience and asked Lisa if there was any negative side for being between cultures.

A middle-aged American couple who had just finished reading my book commented how the film brought everything live for them and asked about the filmmaking process.

A woman in her 30s, a student at Harper and has lived in many parts of the world with her parents during her growing up years, raved about the film and offered to introduce it to high schools in the area, stating how informative and educational the film will be to students.

As always, Lisa and I were genuinely touched. We didn’t get home until close to midnight, and Jiayu, a graduate student at IIT who gave us the ride to and back from Harper College, bravely battled the rain and traffic, and managed to get us all home safely (not without some dangerous maneuvering), including giving a ride home for two city residents who missed their last train.

Our sincere thanks to the Humanities Center at Harper College for hosting the event and the audience for their interest, support, and connection.

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

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Q & A at Mulberry Child screening

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

BAC 3My daughter Lisa and I recently did Q & A after the screening of Mulberry Child at the Beverly Arts Center in Chicago. As always, the responses from the audience were emotional and deeply touching and the session ran 45 minutes long.

Among the questions raised from the audience that evening, one was addressed to Lisa. I found my grip on the microphone tightening when a woman in a front row asked in a clear but amusing voice if Lisa has a daughter, how she would like to raise her.

BAC 4I had brought up the subject in a different manner under different circumstances to her before, mostly when I got frustrated with her. I would say I wish her children would do to her what she had done to me. Lisa would laugh, telling me not to worry because she wouldn’t have any child. “Too much work,” she’d say.

I was eager to hear what she had to say to a question seriously and friendly presented.

Typical to Lisa, she joked about it: “Screw up our linear parents who have got liberal arts and communication degrees, because my daughter is going to get an engineer degree.”

The audience erupted in laughter.

“Sounds like a real Chinese mother,” I interrupted, unable to refrain from bing sarcastic.

BAC1Lisa turned serious after a good laugh. She shared her mortifying experience of starting school in New York City and was being made fun of, and how that had made her want to fit in, at the expense of shedding her origin.

“I think as our world continues to evolve and globalize, immigrants don’t look at this country of opportunity in the same capacity any more,” she continued. “You recognize your heritage and realize you need to capitalize on that… So I’d like my children to speak six languages.”

The audience laughed again.

“Being Chinese is part of my heritage,” Lisa added. “It will be remiss and an incredible shame if they don’t feel about China the way I do.… In part because I was born there, just like America is an intricate part of who I am.”

I was very touched and pleased to hear her say that! If I were not concerned about embarrassing her, I would have leaned over to give her a hug right there and then on the stage.

I always enjoy doing Q & A with Lisa, despite having to watch more carefully what I say when she is around, because she loses no time to dispute what she doesn’t agree. Not only her insight and humor make the discussion more lively, but also that listening to her addressing to the audience, I can always gain a bit more understanding of her, and her, me.

Thank you all for giving us the opportunity of sharing our story and reaching a better understanding of each other.

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

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At AAS Conference

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

AAS ConferenceLast week, I attended part of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) conference in San Diego for a couple of days. One of the rare occasions where I saw more Asians than other ethnic group under one roof.

I was there for Mulberry Child movie. After spending weeks getting the Chinese subtitles ready and selecting a few episodes of “behind the scene” interviews for the premium DVD of the film, I was very excited to see the final package on display at the booth of China Classics, a distributor of Chinese classic literature and artwork at AAS conference. Wang, owner of the company, graciously agreed to showcase Mulberry Child at his booth when a mutual friend introduced us. He has been in the business of providing Chinese language materials to East Asian Studies libraries at universities across the U.S. for many years. I was impressed and pleased to see so many of his clients come to him to order books he carried. His booth must be the busiest one in the exhibition hall.

Over the period of a day and a half when I was at the exhibition hall, I met with more than 50 professors or librarians in East Asian Studies from universities around the world. Reportedly, more than 3,000 people attended this annual conference.

I was very encouraged by the interest in and positive response to Mulberry Child movie and the book. And more excitedly, upon my return to Chicago, I began to receive orders from universities via our website, which posted the sales of two different packages of Mulberry Child DVD to educational institutions.

I know Mulberry Child movie can serve as a very effective tool in courses on China’s history, women’s studies, and immigrant studies. And with the addition of Chinese subtitles, it can assist in the learning of Chinese language as well.

I look forward to the opportunity of reaching out to more students, professors, and librarians at universities in the coming months and want to thank those who have generously supported us, including Mr. Wang.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary movie by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. Visit www.mulberrychildmovie.com for more information.

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September 6th

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Four years ago on September 6, I was on a plane rushing from Chicago to Beijing, via a transfer in Toronto, the only route I could get a seat within hours of learning the news that my father had passed away.  I was very shocked despite having seen him in Changchun, capital of Jilin Province where he lived less than two weeks before ago when I visited him and my mother and knew he was very weak.  The impact of losing him hit me so hard that I couldn’t stop the tears and couldn’t breathe without feeling the physical pain in my chest.

Four years later on the same day I was on a plane again, this time from Chicago to New York City. I was on my way to attend the premiere of Mulberry Child, the feature-length documentary based my book, at the Quad Cinema. It was a coincidence that the week-long screenings in NYC would start in early September. Personally I dedicated the occasion as a tribute to my father.

Four years have gone since his passing, but he is alive in my heart and his influence on me still goes on just as if he were still with me. I have and will always remember him as a man of integrity, a dedicated public servant, and a loving father. His passion toward life, his optimism facing all kinds of adversity, and his strength, both mentally and physically, will stay with me and inspire me forever. I cherish the memory when, as a child, I used his arm as a swing; and in his 80s, I still couldn’t beat him in arm wrestling. And I’m grateful to this day that his firm no against my joining the army before finishing high school changed the path of my life.

My father passed away on September 6, 2008 after battling with lung cancer for three years. He remained a fighter to the last day of his life. Upon learning the news of his diagnosis in 2005, he was silent for a week and then decided his way of living the last phase of his life: no operation, no chemo therapy, and no hospitalization. He wanted to control the quality of his remaining days without drugs, and he wanted to live with dignity, and with his mind as clear as he had always been. And he did, enduring a lot of pain without any complaint.

He expressed two last wishes during that time: live to see the Beijing Olympic Games and the Shanghai Expo. He was able to fulfill the first.

Many readers of Mulberry Child expressed admiration for him. I was touched and pleased. He would have liked hearing those comments. I took comfort in the fact that I was able to present a hardcover copy of my book to him in August 2008 when I visited him, and in September when I went back to attend his funeral, I saw my book on a prominent position on his desk. Longing to have the book accompanying him, I placed that copy under his pillow when he was wheeled away for cremation.

He would be pleased to know that the film Mulberry Child had been produced, well received at film festivals, with three awards under its name so far, and resonated with many viewers at theatres. I’m looking forward to the premiere in NYC, a place I had once lived for five years and my father had visited before.

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

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Norman Mark Memorial

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

My wife and I recently attended a moving memorial service for Norman Mark, the journalist, author, TV anchor, film critic and wine aficionado. Norman died suddenly at the age of 72 in Palm Desert, California, his home for the past decade. I can’t really say that I knew Norman well or was a close friend of his.  He was born and raised in Chicago, and I had met him in the mid-1990s when I was Chairman of the Chicago International Film Festival. He was the MC for our Gala event in 1995, when the honoree for the evening was the actress Faye Dunaway. To say that Ms. Dunaway had been difficult, was an understatement. Changing limos and hotel suites was the tip of the iceberg, and so I was anxious about the highlight of our event and how things would turn out. I remember explaining to Norman the difficult couple of days we’d had, and expressing my concern as to how the honoring ceremony and speeches would go for that evening.  He put his hand on my shoulder clearly seeing my concern and said, “Don’t worry.  She’s just a big pain in the —.”  He then laughed, making me feel comfortable and less anxious, and of course the evening and his introduction of Ms. Dunaway went very smoothly.

Although we saw each other from time-to-time when he relocated to Palm Springs, my wife and I found ourselves seated next to Norman and his lovely wife Grace at the opening night event of the 2012 Palm Springs International Film Festival, where our movie “Mulberry Child,” of which I am the executive producer, was being screened. He promised to see the film and expressed much interest in the subject matter of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the impact even today on families that went through that trauma. As it happened, he gave the Movie a great review, and named it one of the 5 best “must-see” movies of the Festival.

My wife and I were leaving for Europe, and would not return to the Palm Springs area until April. We agreed that we would phone upon our return and make a date for dinner. What a lesson! In our daily lives we all assume, that we can make simple arrangements like dinner dates weeks or months into the future, without of course, ever giving a thought that fate might take a hand. We were shocked to hear of Norman’s sudden passing, and found ourselves with our good friend Chaz Ebert, attending his memorial service in Palm Desert, instead of arranging to have dinner together.

The memorial was held in the pretty garden of the Mark’s delightful home, and was attended by close friends and family. It was a celebration of Norman’s life, with commentary from his dearest friends and his children. I learned that Norman was first and foremost a man of humor. A person who throughout his career had endeared himself to all that had worked and socialized with him. He loved his work, and found humor in everything. He had a passion for show business from his boyhood years and following his education at Northwestern, he pursued a full and enjoyable career in TV and journalism. Speaker after speaker told stories and anecdotes, about his pranks, jokes and sense of humor. A person who always saw the glass half full, and went through life with a perpetual smile on his face. It was a wonderful sendoff from those that loved him the most. I was deeply conscious, that leaving a footprint on this Earth, based upon humor and a love of life to the full is probably the most rewarding thing we can do. Norman’s Memorial in Palm Desert was repeated in Chicago a couple of weeks later, with a large crowd of friends, former colleagues, and admirers.

My wife and I were so sorry, that we had not made it to that restaurant date, which would have led to a closer friendship with Norman and his wife Grace, two people that we and many others would have liked to have known better.

Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden: www.bearanyburden.com

Another successful run in Chicago

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

Sold Out Screening at the Gene Siskel Film Center

Mulberry Child finished its second run at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago last Thursday, with 11 screenings over a period of one week. Most of the shows were sold out, and each of the Q & A sessions lasted 45 minutes or more. I was and still am very touched and honored.

I was pleased to see some friends and friends’ friends come to the screenings; and more Asians, including many Chinese, in the audience this time. I was thrilled, like I was at the first round of screenings, that the audiences connected with the themes of Mulberry Child from various levels regardless of their backgrounds. When I saw several friends/viewers who had watched the film in January came back again, this time with their friends and family members, I was moved beyond words. Many members of

Jian Ping talking with audience after screening

book clubs, Women of the World, and the Asian Group of IWA that I had met and given talks to before also came to the screenings, some coming as far as Crystal Lake, more than 50 miles away!

Meanwhile, Nina Metz’ at the Chicago Tribune released a coverage on Mulberry Child the day the film opened its screening. The half-page write up was accompanied with a large photo of my daughter, Lisa, and me and gave a very good idea of what the film is about.

Many heartfelt thanks to you all for your interest and support!

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 is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. The film just finished its second run for a week at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago.

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Radio Interview at WLUW

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Live interview with Katy Hogan and Michael James

A last minute request for an interview with Katy Hogan and Michael James at WLUW, 88.7 FM brought me to the live program at Heartland Cafe early yesterday morning. Most of the tables at the Café were taken by diners when I arrived. Lisa Smith, producer of the program, was busy solving some technical problems before the one-hour program went live.

The setting was casual, and the sound of conversations among the diners, accelerated by the noises made by small children, made the place full of life.

“How can you get all the side ‘sound track‘ out?” I asked. I have done many radio interviews about my book and the film based on my book. But I had never been in a place that the surrounding sound appeared louder than what came out on a stage when interviews would be conducted.

“No problem,” Michael said. “We use sound filters.”

I watched diners eat or chat when the first person talking about local elections was being interviewed. I was a little concerned when my turn was up.

The Harold Washington Library in downtown Chic...

The Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago. Taken by Douglas Kaye, 2005. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since it was a “last minute request,” Katy and Michael had not had any time looking into the film, which, in a way, served well in giving me a chance to give a brief introduction about the film and the book Mulberry Child. The interview felt like a chat, and we went on to cover the upcoming screenings of Mulberry Child at the Gene Siskel Film Center from March 30 to April 5. I was proud to announce the partnership of the Film Center with the upcoming Chicago Public Library‘s One Book, One Chicago program in showcasing the film. Toward the end, Michael even brought up the film website.

www.mulberrychildmovie.com, ” Michael repeated after me, so listeners could take it down and check out all the information on the film.

Lisa Smith was motioning to us that our time was running out. We brought the conversation to an end. I was surprised to hear the loud applause from the diners. I turned to look at the room and was touched to see so many people were clapping their hands while looking at us. I was worried no one was going to pay much attention when I walked on to the stage.

I passed a few postcards of the film to the people sitting in the front. I said goodbye to Lisa Smith before the finish of the program, as I had to rush to an 11 a.m. appointment.

A woman with a small child in her arms stopped me at the door.

“Thank you for sharing your story,” she said. “Could I have a postcard?” she asked. “I’d like to share it with my friends.”

I walked away, feeling glad I had come to the interview.

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Mulberry Child Returns to Chicago

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

After three sold-out screenings in the “Stranger than Fiction” documentary series in January, Mulberry Child returns to Chicago with 11 screenings from March 30 to April 5 at the Gene Siskel Film Center, in partnership with the Chicago Public Library’s One Book One Chicago spring program.

My heartfelt thanks to you all for your support! The responses I’ve received are overwhelmingly touching. I’m thrilled and humbled.

Please help us spread the word of the upcoming screenings if you have seen the film. For those who couldn’t make it in January, hope you can join us this time. Once again, we strongly recommend obtaining your ticket(s) in advance.

My daughter Lisa and I will do Q & A after the last screening each day except Wednesday, April 4.

“a powerful and touching film,” stated Roger Ebert who gave the film 3 ½ stars.

Read full review.

I had a discussion about the film with Phil Ponce on Chicago Tonight Show, WTTW.

Watch the interview.

MULBERRY CHILD

Directed by Susan Morgan Cooper, USA, 85 min. Narrated by Jacqueline Bisset

This many-layered documentary saga begins in Chicago with a disconnect between Chinese-born Jian Ping and her thoroughly American daughter Lisa Xia, and journeys into the heart of China for a personal history of one family’s trauma and eventual triumph over Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Through colorful reenactments, historical records, and moving interviews, director Morgan Cooper (AN UNLIKELY WEAPON) follows the trail of Mulberry Child, Jian’s powerful memoir of growing up amid the hardship and injustice of the Cultural Revolution, and traces daughter Lisa’s gradual understanding of family love. Presented in partnership with the Chicago Public Library’s One Book, One Chicago program, which features Gold Boy, Emerald Girl by Yiyun Li this spring.

Screening schedule: (Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, Chicago, tickets are now available at the box office or the Ticketmaster)

Fri, Mar 30th at 8:15pm

Sat, Mar 31st at 3:15pm; 5:00pm; and 7:45pm

Sun, Apr 1st at 3:15pm; and 5:00pm

Mon, Apr 2nd at 6:15pm and 8:00pm

Tue, Apr 3rd at 8:00pm

Wed, Apr 4th at 6:15pm

Thu, Apr 5th at 8:15pm

Hope you can join us at one of the screenings if you are in the vicinity. Thanks.

Jian Ping, autor of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China

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Touching Moments

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Audience at Q & A with Jian and Lisa after watching Mulberry Child

All three screenings of Mulberry Child at the Gene Siskel Film Center were sold out.  I was amazed and touched that the audiences of different ages and backgrounds connected with our life stories!

At our 2nd screening, I was pleased to see a number of Chinese in the audience. I was most eager to hear what they had to say. The moment I stepped down from the podium after Q & A, a young Chinese woman in her 20s stood up from her front row seat and hugged me.

“Thank you for sharing your story,” she said in a low voice. I realized she was crying.

I put my arms around her as she laid her head over my left shoulder and sobbed. Two of her friends stood by, their eyes welled up with tears.

The young woman lifted her head and gave me an embarrassed smile, wiping away her tears.

“It’s OK,” I said, padding her on her back as she lowered her head over my shoulder again.

Lisa and Jian addressing audience's questions

“Just call your mother tonight and tell her you love her, too,” I said, trying to make it light.

A young Chinese couple, both graduate students from UIC, waited patiently as our conversation kept being interrupted by friends who came to give their congratulations and bid farewell. It turned out that they both came from Changchun, the city where I was born.

“We never learned much about the Cultural Revolution,” the wife said. “I feel I get to know my parents much more by watching your film.”

I was deeply moved by their reaction and comments.

More than two dozens of people lingered behind and talked until the staff at the Gene Siskel Film Center called out to close the theatre at 11 p.m.

The last screening was equally moving. Only one or two people left when we started the Q & A. I felt the connection from the audience and took turns with my daughter Lisa to address their questions on China, our relationship, and the impact of the film on us.

The next day, I found one posting from a Chinese woman named Li. I remembered talking to her the night before. She was Lisa’s age. She wrote: “Every Chinese should watch this film.”

Jian with graduate students from IIT

I received numerous moving comments from my friends via email during the week after the screenings. I was so touched that I selected a few each day to forward to my director Susan and executive producer Ellis, stating these are the “love letters of the day.”

Mulberry Child was so well received by the audience that the Gene Siskel Film Center invited us to come back for a weeklong screening from March 30 to April 5, with 11 shows. The Chicago Public Library also invited us to participate in the spring’s One Book, One Chicago program, stating Mulberry Child would be a “wonderful companion” to the selected book, so we formed a three-way partnership.

I’ve committed to do Q & A with Lisa at the last screening of each day during the screening period. I look forward to connect directly with as many viewers as possible.

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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