When two Chinese graduate students, Ming Qu and Ying Wu, were fatally shot off campus in April, members of the USC community were affected in many different ways. Feeling personal connections to the victims, three students, Yuxi He, Jiazheng Chen and Tien-Huei Grace Yeh, set out to create a film about Wu and Qu’s story.
The final product, titled City of Dreams, premiered Tuesday night at AMC Atlantic Times Square 14 in Monterey Park.
“When the accident happened, I followed the news tirelessly,” He, a graduate student studying communications management, wrote in an email. “There were crazy, sensationalist comments among every major media platform in China. I was very personally struck by what I felt was [the] misrepresentation [of] two human beings and I felt the need to act.”
Many of the headlines in China portrayed Wu and Qu as rich students, since they were sitting in a 2003 BMW when the shooting occurred. He and other Chinese students have sought to defend Wu and Qu’s images and portray the victims as hardworking international students.
“We work very hard to study well and further our careers, just like every other university student, regardless of where they’re from or how much money is in their family,” He said. “We have our own struggles, hopes and dreams.”
Though neither He nor her co-producers had any cinematic arts experience, they felt film would be the most powerful medium to tell their story. She said because of the strength of their message and the media attention the shooting received, the filmmakers were able to enlist the help of professionals and other volunteers to produce the film.
“I was so surprised and moved by all the kind support from every part of the community, our friends and sponsors funded this project,” she said. “My professors provided suggestions and Wu’s landlord provided her house to us for filming. Qu’s sister served as both story advisor and production assistant.”
The biggest obstacle the crew faced in producing the movie was funding. He said the team received support from alumni and friends after He and her associates created a trailer for the project. The large number of filming locations in the script also proved to be a challenge for the producers, but whenever they asked for assistance, people were willing to help.
“The fear, the confusion and the heartbreak we went through when tragedy struck still lives vividly in my heart,” He said. “We lost two beautiful souls that had incredible love for this city, but we didn’t lose hope. Los Angeles is still the City of Dreams in our hearts.”
The victims’ parents filed a lawsuit against USC in the Los Angeles Superior Court in May. On Monday, a judge said he would allow the plaintiffs to amend their arguments rather than dismissing the case, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Two suspects, Bryan Barnes and Javier Bolden, are charged with murdering Qu and Wu during the commission of a robbery. Both are currently awaiting trial.