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Wanqui Sun has an incredibly close relationship with her mother…and while that’s not the reason that she was chosen as an editor for the films “She Gives Me Sight” and “Cowards”, it’s obvious that her talent was laser focused on these stories of the importance of family. Artists of all mediums are emotional people and an essential attribute in their ability to create is that they feel strongly and deeply. While we all have the ability to cherish relationships, it is the artist who creates a sense of community in an audience by allowing us to say, “I have felt this way.” It’s an editor who creates this unification in a film, assembling all the connective tissue of a production to present the ideas and performances of those who took part in it. Wanqiu benevolently uses her talent and all the tools at her disposal to “encourage” the emotion of the scenes that make up the stories which the filmmakers are proud of and viewers embrace. “She Gives Me Sight” and “Cowards” and not comfortable films but they communicate that we should appreciate the good and the difficult parts of the human experience.

“She Gives Me Sight” is accurately described as a heart wrenching film. Cecil is a nine-year-old blind boy who is bullied by peers in addition to the obvious difficulties that his visual impairment brings. His grandmother is his guardian and she insists on his taking parts in everyday chores and responsibilities. Her refusal to expect anything less than what she would expect from him even if he could see creates consistent friction between them until the grandmother tells him a metaphorical story about a butterfly and a rose. This communicates a beautiful lyrical tale about perseverance as well as planting a seed of literary affinity for young Cecil. He is seen year’s later as a successful writer who has penned a book with the same title as the film.

One of the most difficult things to portray convincingly in this film is the young boy’s blindness. This required Sun to spend copious amount of time scrutinizing the dailies from different angles and analyze the best ways of communicating this. Rhythm and perspective were paramount as the editor stipulates, “We focused on finding performance of him pretending to be tough but with details that hint to his vulnerable inside. This is the performance we tried to find in the scene in which he’s bullied by other boys. The mopping scene is also a very important scene because he is flooded with anger for his grandmother for the first time. In this scene, he’s willing to try but also afraid to try. There’s a tension built up from these scenes which leads to Cecil’s breakdown. In the editing process, I built the scene with a certain pace. There’s a certain rhythm to his mopping and knocking into things which escalates his frustration. This repeats and crescendos until his anger erupts, which was vital to carrying the scene.”

A pivotal scene in “She Gives Me Sight” is the bedtime story scene in which the grandmother subtly communicates the idea that Cecil will be stronger because of this tough love one day. To tug at the audience’s emotions, Sun added music from a contemporary composer and utilized crossfades, slow-motion, and reframing to amplify Cecil’s feelings during this moment.

A family also experiencing a difficult time but told in a much more mysterious and suspenseful way is that of “Cowards.” Wanqiu served as editor on this film that involves sight into the afterlife rather than in the physical world. A war veteran named Leno is convinced that he is haunted by ghosts and hires a Psychic named Tommy to investigate this. Leno reminds Tommy of his alcoholic father who committed suicide after Tommy left once he became an adult. The interaction of the two men causes them both to question their family dynamics and eventually leads to healing for both. This very uncommon relationship between two troubled men communicates how people are often given the opportunity to help others and in turn help themselves.

Director Guangda Zhao had extensive discussions prior to the editing with Wanqiu. He wanted the film to be suspenseful in its depiction of the cowardice of the three primary male characters in the story: Tommy, Brown (Tommy’s deceased father), and Leno. He wanted the action of these characters to communicate their desire for dignity and how they might eventually achieve it. The production presented opportunities for Sun to create suspense while also focusing on character study. After extensively reviewing the script for insight, Wanqiu focused on specific scenes like Tommy’s first visit to Leno’s home. The original long takes of Tommy hunting for ghosts in Leno’s house were replaced by several jump cuts to maximize the intensity of the scene. Push-in shots also presented the action with a feeling of trepidation. These techniques utilized by the editor built tension and increased the audience’s curiosity of the characters and surroundings. Sun notes, “I’m always interested in the cutting of suspense scenes. I’ve learned how to balance the genre and the story thanks to numerous productions. I feel that it’s important to remain true to the genre and build suspense, distracting the audience when necessary as well as respecting the times when it should be avoided. For example, there are most certainly no ghosts in Leno’s house and I don’t want to infer the idea that there are simply because I can as an editor.”

Editing is an incremental process rather than a one-time task. After viewing the initial cut of “Cowards”, Wanqiu discussed with the director the idea that the connection in Tommy’s mind of Leno and Brown was not prominent enough on screen. After agreeing with this notion, Sun created flashback scenes and combed through footage to find similarities between Leno and Brown to highlight the connection in terms of Tommy’s perceived perspective by the audience. The end result was a happy director and a more cohesive sense of the main character’s motivation and resolve. Both of these films are given a deeper impact for the viewer because of Wanqiu Sun’s commitment to telling the story as the filmmakers and story demands.

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