Susanna Yu Bai: “May the New Year bring us scripts with which to identify and hope”

The director of Chinese descent reflects on the artistic possibilities arising out of the pandemic, and on the roles for second-generation actors emerging post-emergency.

Susanna Yu Bai is thirty years old. She was born in Italy into a Chinese family who emigrated in the 1980s. During high school, at the age of fourteen, she attended an after-school photography course: “The photography projects my teacher set me gave me the chance to see the world from a different perspective, a world other than my everyday life. I was able to travel through images. The camera became a means to explore the world. I still remember how excited I was when my father took me to FNAC to buy my first camera. It was very expensive, and a great act of love on his part”, she explains to NRW. Susanna Yu Bai couldn’t wait to explore the world of images. She started attending various social video, documentary and film production courses and later graduated in Communication Design from the Politecnico di Milano, before embarking in a professional career.

Last year she worked on a documentary, Cinesi in Italia (Chinese People in Italy) – produced by the Confucius Institute of the University of Turin – about the Chinese community in Italy (a topic recently covered by NRW). “It was great to get to know and relive my own history through that of the people whom many call my fellow countrymen”, says Susanna. “My latest project involved an all-female workshop entitled ‘Se non so più chi sono’ (If I no longer know who I am), organised by the Docucity association of the University of Milan. We then produced a video, aired on the youtube channel of Mudec, Milan’s Museum of Cultures, telling the story of these women from around the world. My plans for the future are a work in progress. Certainly, if possible, some will relate to China, but there will also be others. The new year has just begun, and we’ll also have to wait and see how the health emergency pans out”.

2020 was also the year of lockdown, which for Susanna Yu Bai was a period of suspension, but also a time marked by a rush for technology, with all the new possibilities that that brings: “I followed festivals that I would otherwise have never attended, listened to the stories of people on the other side of the globe, learned to use the tools offered by the Net. I learned to work remotely, online, and to offer consulting services. The solutions are endless: technological upgrading; continuous online training; joining work groups to develop creative ideas and use these new means, which unfortunately will remain a part of our daily life for a long time yet”.

But her daily life is that of every young woman trying to find her place in the Italian world of work: “There certainly are gender stereotypes, but fortunately we are gradually overcoming them through the organisation of projects for women. My personal worry is that I look young, which makes me appear inexperienced, fresh on the labour market. But with professionalism and a pinch of humour, you can overcome any stereotype”.

What does 2021 have in store for young female film makers? “Many new scripts about real life, scripts that break down gender and culture stereotypes. For example, I would like my colleague, the actor Shi Yang Shi, not to always have to play stereotyped roles such as the unscrupulous businessman.”

Yes, this year we need new stories with which to identify and hope.

Translated by Fiona Tarsia