College Connection at Film Fest

April 12th, 2017

A film by Jinqi (Violet) Wang featured in the Wisconsin’s Own section at this year’s Wisconsin Film Festival began with a College Library connection. Both the director and her subject, Gretchen Carvajal, were working in the InfoLab at College Library when they met and decided to collaborate on a 10-minute documentary entitled Brown Girl.

Violet, who was in need of a subject for her Long-Form Video Journalism class, didn’t know that Gretchen was an artist before beginning the project. As she filmed, she discovered Gretchen’s passion for printmaking, her family and her poetry. “This was my first time listening to spoken-word poems,” said the director, “I kept asking Gretchen, ‘Why didn’t you tell me it was going to be this good?'”

In the documentary, Gretchen, who admits it took her a long time to call herself an artist, realized at one point that art is “just a way of communicating something, that only you can.” After coming to America from the Philippines when she was seven, Gretchen describes learning English in school and how she strove to express herself in this new language. The film ends with her declaration, “There’s something about underdogs that make you want to root for them, but brown girls are glass slipper, carriage and fairy godmother, a trinity of everything that wasn’t supposed to exist, but did.”

A fan of independent cinema, Violet is equally at home with narrative and documentary films. Her eventual goal is to one day make movies that “focus on real struggles and tell real stories.” She gleaned valuable insights when her first film Infurmy, about a cat’s dental procedure and co-directed with Elle Waters, was accepted into last year’s festival. Once there, she was able to use her filmmaker pass to attend panels, chat with other presenters, and seek advice from professional filmmakers. She credits her TA, Hamidreza Nassiri, and her professor, Aaron Granat, with encouraging her to submit her work.

Due to other commitments, including a semester studying abroad in Rome, Violet no longer works in the InfoLab, but instead helps other students learn video editing tools such as Premiere Pro as an STS (Software Training for Students) consultant. Although she has her own camera equipment, Violet often took advantage of the InfoLab’s powerful video editing computers and 24-hour access to work on her project. She encourages anyone who is interested in making movies to check out equipment, check in with staff, and start creating. “There are all of these resources and help available. Stop by STS – ask me questions!”

For more information about Brown Girl, see Lake Front Row’s “Five Questions” by David Klein.

Title screen of the documentary Brown Girl