Jim and I saw the story of The Young Pioneers as an entry point into Chinese development and assimilation at Indiana University. In IU's town of Bloomington, Indiana, Chinese restaurants, groceries, salons, bubble tea cafes and clubs and groups are in abundance. Jim and I had collectively lived in China for over a decade and we were fascinated in these Chinese communities. When we met The Young Pioneers, we knew that we wanted to tell their stories. It was a story that weighed origins and dreams, pressures and freedoms, and fearlessly pursued a desire to assimilate with IU's culture in a way that we rarely saw from Asian students. As we filmed, we observed (and encouraged) these Chinese students to assert their belief that international students can do everything American students can do, including ride bikes.
Jim is equally comfortable on the streets of Bloomington (where he is a masters student in the media school) as he is in the Beijing hutongs. He is a careful observer, has an ear for languages and accents, and loves dumplings. Not only does he love to eat Chinese food, he loves to cook it for other people; he is known for his jianbing guozi and dapanji. Jim's photographs and writing about China have appeared in The Cleaver Quarterly.
Odette first went to China in 2006 to work with documentary filmmaker Wu Wenguang at his studio in Beijing. She studied and lived at Wu's Caochangdi Workstation for over 3 years. During this time, she met Jim in a Beijing hutong. Odette documented her years in China, leaving in 2010 to make a personal documentary in Mississippi that explored her origins and identity. For that project, she received an exclusive fellowship to study storytelling with nationally awarded filmmaker Dana Rae Warren. Odette studied filmmaking at Hampshire College.