WOMEN IN FILM: Filmmaker Cindy Di Xin

(Cindy Di Xin)

China native Cindy Di Xin is an award-winning filmmaker who has written and directed six short films. She earned a master’s degree in film production with an emphasis in directing from Chapman University in Orange County, California, and The School of Visual Arts in New York City. 

In the past three years, Cindy has been nominated and awarded at seventeen film festivals, including several Academy Award-qualifying festivals. Cindy is currently finishing up post-production on her short film The Day, at the Beach and writing her first feature film script.

In her films, Cindy enjoys exploring family and multi-cultural dynamics from her unique, bi-cultural female perspective.

What’s your origin story?

I was born in Nanning GX, China, a small city close to Vietnam. I am raised by my grandma from my mother’s side. My dad’s family is a traditional Chinese family. They really wanted my parents to have a son in order to have someone to keep the family name, which affected me a lot. My grandma from my mother’s side is the closest person in my life.

My family’s dynamic is interesting due to the number of relatives and different kinds of social class backgrounds, which also inspires me to share more about the Chinese family culture and stories in my films.

I attended high school in the United States due to my parents’ marriage problems. Upon this opportunity, I also got a chance to live with two American families for two years. After the first two years, I started my new life in the states by myself and became an independent young woman who was really excited about her life journey.

How did you break into the film industry?

In the past, I have been through so many kinds of relationship experiences from my own to that of my parents. Loneliness is the word that was always around me. I am an introverted person. I have experienced some of the things and feelings that I was eager to share and wanted to find people who have the same feelings as me, but I was not brave enough to actually do that.

I started finding these connections from movies, and so I began to watch many, many films. After this, I realized I can find similar stories that connect with me, which helped me to find relief and heal. From then on, I always tried to analyze and remember the feelings that I felt. I wanted to make films that not only tell a story but also focus more on the character’s internal feelings.

I think film is a medium for connecting people from various groups With my films, I want to help my audience feel less lonely in their lives. This has brought me to this role as a filmmaker.

Who were your mentors?

My life mentor is my grandma from my mother’s side. Although she lacks education, she has taught and inspired me about the meaning of love, emotions, and how to be a good person. She still was able to teach me a lot in my life despite having Alzheimer’s and being unable to function.

My grandma always has my back and her kind words make me feel uplifted. She always shows me her great love and encourages me to do whatever I want.

Mentors from the film industry are Erin Li and Rachel Goldberg, both of whom are talented and award-winning female filmmakers. I have known them since I studied at Chapman University. They always gave me 200% support, and advice on how to be myself and make films in this male-dominated film industry. Working as a female filmmaker sometimes is difficult. Erin and Rachel use their own stories and experiences to encourage me and to make me realize that we have different kinds of strengths to present and to show in this industry in order to demonstrate diversity and multi-perspectives.

While there will be others, what do you consider your biggest achievement to date?

I think my biggest achievement is not a practical thing; it is about building connections. After several screening events of my short film The day, at the Beach and Voiceless, I had numerous audience members speak with me about their connection to my films, and even share their own stories with me.

The biggest achievement for me is when audiences relate to my films, connect with them, and even have my films be a voice for them.

What drives you to create?

First, my own life drives me to create. I have had dramatic experiences with my own family and in my own personal life. I always reflect on my own story and find deep meaning in my life. Secondly, all the trending societal issues that influence women’s lives or specific family issues also inspire me to create. I always believe that people want to speak out but sometimes they don’t know how to or don’t have a chance to. I love to find those voices and try to share or speak for them.

What shows or films are doing the best job of portraying strong women?

I think there are many films that are doing good jobs of portraying strong women. The first that comes to mind is Nomadland by Chloé Zhao. It is a film that shows a woman who makes her own decisions about how she wants to live her life, without caring what other people think of her. Fern is brave enough to start her new journey in her sixties. 

Coffee, Lunch or Happy Hour. Name a famous woman you would like to attend each function with.

Chloé Zhao. She is a delicate and talented filmmaker. I really like how she shapes her stories. Her films not only provide us with entertainment, but also take us on a journey with her characters. I hope she can one day share her artistic language with me!

What is the biggest challenge to women in your industry?

Male domination has led the film world for over a century and has deeply influenced the industry. The biggest challenge in my experience is being a female director in this industry.

Women directors must put in more effort to make the crew feel that you have equal abilities as male directors. People usually have more doubts about your decisions and thoughts when you are a female director.

They usually have thoughts or believe stereotypes that women are not as strong as men. Therefore, male filmmakers usually more easily receive a ‘yes/ok’ response than female filmmakers. Women’s challenges in the film industry are most of the time invisible.


How has having the superpower helped you?

Being a woman allows me to be more sensitive to the world around me.  This means that I am more sensitive to my emotions and to those of others.  Through this, I can better understand the human condition and learn about other people’s stories and cultures.  It has definitely made me a more well-rounded person.

What is your kryptonite?

Being smaller in size and having a sensitive heart and mind have proven to be a weakness at times.  It might portray to the male-dominated film industry that I am not strong enough or have enough willpower to hold my own.  The industry has a default definition of who is usually in charge, based on gender and sexual orientation, but I hope to be able to challenge that.

When you’re not creating, what do you do in your off time?

I love watching movies for sure, to see the work of other filmmakers and the methods they use to shape stories. Other than film, I enjoy both traveling and taking still pictures. I’m able to get close to real life, real people, and real stories through travel.

Being a still photographer allows me to truly undercover intimacy with strangers.

Predict your future! Where are you in 5 years?

In film. Hahah!  I am going to work on my first feature film, which is about being in a traditional Asian family, and how Asian women deal with their family relationships and their feminine power.  Other than making my own films, I hope I can help other people to create and tell their stories.

I hope we can hear more true voices from female filmmakers. I also hope I can travel around the world to explore more cultures and learn about their people.

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