My Nanu’s Death Day: Teenage Filmmaker's Debut Short

By Ned Kelly, November 4, 2022

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Originally from India, but having lived in Shanghai her whole life, Tiana Advani is in the 11th grade at Shanghai American School Puxi. She is also a debut filmmaker, with a screening of her first animated short taking place on November 12.

Based on a true story, My Nanu’s Death Day follows a young girl as she finds out an Indian psychic has predicted her grandfather will die that day.

The screening will be followed by an open mic storytelling opportunity, a celebration of family, Indian food and more, with all proceeds from ticket sales to be donated to charity Stop AAPI Hate.

We caught up with Tiana to find out more.

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How did you first conceive the concept of the story?
This project is based on a true story; I decided to write a short piece on the events through brainstorming and exploration for a personal narrative I was writing.

Why did you decide to turn it into a film?
Earlier this year, I was accepted to perform this short piece at a live storytelling event hosted by Unravel, but due to lockdown, it got canceled. I didn’t want that to stop me from sharing this story, so I decided to turn the concept into a visual piece of some form.

My initial idea was to make a film with my grandfather, but it didn't seem possible due to the distance (he's in India). I started thinking of other ways to bring the story to life. After a couple of weeks of thinking, I landed on the possibility of animating my story.

The main purpose of creating this film is to help people feel more connected to their family in a time when it’s really hard to see them because of COVID-19 restrictions. I haven’t seen my grandparents in almost three years and wanted to do something to celebrate our bond and feel more connected to my family and culture.

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Can you describe the film making process?
The first step was to write a script. I had to flesh out each character regarding their objectives, personality, and motivations. Since it's based on my family, I drew inspiration from them.

The second part was to find an animator willing to bring it to life and find a way to fund the film. I raised more than half of the animator's quote and the film started production.

The process of the creation of the movie itself was invigorating. I had never been ‘in charge’ of a project before. I provided the characters, the vision and the direction. I also, alongside my grandfather, voiced characters in the film.

I was able to tweak things to fit my concept for the story. I offered pacing (of the story), audio and visual suggestions, all of which helped me successfully bring my piece to life.

What were the biggest challenges in getting the film made?
The biggest challenge for me was creating a story. Each scene in the movie had to be intentional and meaningful.

I soon realized that my initial script did not precisely fit an animated film's context (since I only had experience writing short stage plays). I had to ensure that the dialogue was dramatic enough but also authentic to our personalities.

This required a bit of tweaking in the expressions of the characters. I attempted to make them more emotive so the animators could sense the feelings I envisioned for the scenes.

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Had you made any films previously?
I have never made an animated film before, but I have made a documentary at the Linden Centre in Suzhou.

I also have experience writing scripts for stage plays, since I enjoy theatre and other aspects of the performing arts.

You will be holding a film screening this month – what can people expect from the event?
The event is an opportunity for people to celebrate an important cause, family and culture. It will first start with an introduction to the project's origins and a bit of brief background information, followed by the screening of the movie.

Following that, there will be an opportunity for people to share and reflect on their own family stories and traditions, as well as a wide selection of Indian street food dishes and dinner!

What will the open mic storytelling section of the evening entail?
The central theme of this event is family and culture, so I want to create a space where people can share their own family stories. People will have the opportunity to get up in front of the mic and tell their own stories about family. It will be an incredible chance to celebrate and indulge in various experiences.

What is the charity Stop AAPI Hate and why did you choose it?
Stop AAPI hate is a nonprofit organization that comes to the aid of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in response to harassment, violence, bullying and discrimination.

I feel a personal connection to this organization because I am Asian, specifically South Asian, and I find my community often gets overlooked or brushed aside when it comes to conversations like these.

I hope this event will help inform the audience about AAPI-directed hate and even introduce a new perspective into the conversation. 

Do you have any more projects lined up?
In the future, I hope to explore different art mediums to celebrate and express my culture and experiences. I hope to plan more storytelling-centric events where people can get the chance to communicate their own experiences.


Film Screening

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Tickets are now on sale for the November 12 film screening of My Nanu’s Death Day. Priced at RMB300, it also includes an Indian street food dinner and three drinks. All proceeds generated from ticket sales will be donated to Stop AAPI Hate.

Scan the QR code on the poster above to purchase yours now.

Saturday Nov 12, 6-8pm; RMB300.

Saffron Grill, Lidoway, 1410 Xiewei Lu, by Huqingping Gong Lu 谢卫路1410号,近沪⻘平公路.


[All images courtesy of Tiana Advani]

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