In high school, Li Lu took her parents’ car (with their begrudging permission) from their home in the suburbs of Houston and headed east to New Orleans on a road trip.
“It was a really formative time,” said Li. “You’re in high school and you’re sort of becoming your own person, and it was really the first time I spent sort of on my own. And, of course, New Orleans being I think the most unique city in the country…it was this mix of discovering something very unique and letting the place wash over you, and it became a huge turning point in my life.”
The trip would also help inspire her first feature film, There is a New World Somewhere, which makes its New Orleans theatrical debut this weekend (Friday, 7:00 P.M., The Broad; and Sunday, 2:30 P.M., Chalmette Movies).
Sylvia (Agnes Bruckner), a struggling artist in New York, is fired from her job and returns home to small-town Texas for a friend’s wedding. She meets an enigmatic stranger, Esteban (Maurice Compte), and together they take an impromptu road trip through the deep south, with a heavy dose of New Orleans.
“Even though the road trip kind of takes you from New Orleans and they head up to Nashville and then to the Carolinas, we shot most of it in or around New Orleans itself,” said Li, who wrote and directed the film, “so a lot of the locations that you’ll see on camera are actual local New Orleans stores or bars or places like that, and some places don’t exist anymore.”
Much of the crew was local as well, Li said, and it’s been fun for her to see many of them go on to work on bigger projects.
Born near Shanghai, Li came to the United States with her parents, both academics, at the age of five. The family settled in Philadelphia, then it was on to Oregon, back to Philly, and then eventually to Houston and its suburbs for high school.
She went to Los Angeles in 2006 to attend USC Film School, and she’s been living there ever since. “It’s actually the longest time I’ve ever been in one place,” she said.
She’s currently writing her second feature. “It’s more of a historical piece. It’s about the first wave of Chinese immigrants who came to America in the 1850’s and on, and it’s a true story,” said Li. “I’m billing it kind of like a feminist western film. It’s about a woman who travels on her own and finds herself in this remote mining town in Idaho, and she has to survive and go through the challenges that face her in that sense.”
“I love westerns,” she added “and I think there’s not been a film that has a central character from that community. We’ve been scattered around as set dressing for the longest time, so I think it will be a very badass, very gritty, not like a pretty western at all because it wasn’t pretty back then.”
But this weekend is all about There is a New World Somewhere. “I kind of put my foot down,” said Li. “I need to get this film out, and I need to get it to New Orleans to have it screened in front of its hometown crowd and just to see everyone again for myself.”
FRI JULY 8 • 7:00 P.M. The Broad Theater (636 N Broad St 70119)
SUN JULY 10 • 2:30 P.M. Chalmette Movies (8700 W Judge Perez Dr 7004)
Tickets – Go to “Showtimes & Online Tickets For Sunday, July 10, 2016” from this link: http://boxoffice.printtixusa.com/chalmette/movies
Li will also be leading some workshops at the New Orleans Video Access Center (NOVAC) on Wednesday and Thursday night, with Wednesday focusing on crowdfunding and Thursday on production planning. More info below:
7/6 Production Planning: http://novacvideo.org/New-Orleans/filmmaker-workshops/7-7-production-planning-workshop-w-li-lu.html