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Alumni: Giving U of T more reasons to be proud

Alumni Portraits
Betty Xie
Current Industry: Arts & Culture, Entertainment, Journalism / Letters
Hon. Bachelor of Arts (HBA) 2014, Woodsworth College

Betty Xie is perfectly comfortable being interviewed in a downtown café. After all, she made her first movie as a young woman in one.

Xie (Honours BA, 2014, Woodsworth College) is only 23 but already an experienced filmmaker. Born in China, she lived in Richmond, B.C., before entering U of T, “simply the best school in Canada.”

Her first movie, Girlfriends, was a 10-minute short centred around two women in a Chinatown coffee shop talking about infidelity. It was screened at the 2013 Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival and the 2014 Reel World Film Festival.

She is perhaps more well-known for her latest film, The Home Promised, the winning project for the 2013 “So You Think You Can Pitch Competition at the Reel Asian Film Festival.

The 19-minute film focuses on an urban neighbourhood of Shaoxing in Taipei and encapsulates the dilemma faced by a generation of Taiwanese torn between their ideological stance as mainlanders and the reality of losing their long promised home.

"The University of Toronto is simply the best school in Canada."

“I stayed in the neighbourhood for a month, and shot 80 hours of film,” Xie said. “I edit all of my films myself.”

In an earlier interview Xie said the project “is significant because the Shaoxing case shines a light on the gradual dissociation between party affiliation and ideological stance of Taiwanese voters. Making a documentary not only raises awareness for the neighbourhood but also calls for the need to delve into the historical complexity of Taiwanese identity.”

Xie and her colleague, David Wang were awarded a grant from the Faculty of Arts & Science’s Dean’s International Initiative Fund to help support the film.

The Home Promised was one of five films chosen in the Air Canada “No Place Like Home” program in the emerging category and began being shown on Air Canada flights on May 1, 2015.

Her other film is Untag Taiwan, which has been lauded by colleagues in the Cinema Studies program at the Asian Institute at the Munk School of Global Affairs for not only its technical qualities but one that also fundamentally challenges our prevailing understanding of Taiwan, its democracy and its multiple identities.

Xie said she chose Asia-Pacific Studies and Cinema Studies at the Munk School because they were “politically and economically oriented.” She said with such a background “you can go anywhere in the world.” She is considering furthering her career in Canada or Asia.

One of the other reasons she enjoyed U of T so much is having Professor Joseph Wong as a mentor and friend.

Wong, professor and Canada Research Chair, political science at Munk, said “without exaggeration, Betty Xie is among the best students I have ever taught at the University. Betty’s academic achievements are outstanding and self-evident.”

Wong said “her extraordinary leadership at the Asian Institute was recognized with a Chu leadership award – twice. Betty is not a taker of opportunities, but rather a leader in shaping real world conversations in and about Asia.”

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