A Silver Screening

2 March 2022

As the lights dimmed in the 900-seat La Sala Theater at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland last August, Frank Zhang ’20 wasn’t sure what to expect. He was, of course, thrilled that the plot of his 18-minute film, Christmas, had already won him a chance to present at the prestigious festival, known for celebrating the early work of some of the world’s most celebrated directors. But how would a sophisticated international audience respond to an extended version of a Carleton student’s comps?

Poster for short film Christmas, created by Frank Zhang ’20
Poster for short film Christmas, created by Frank Zhang ’20

Raised in Shenzen, China, Zhang came to Carleton to play football with the Knights. When an injury sidelined him during his sophomore year, he found himself on the couch watching movies — and quickly developed a passion that led to a cinema and media studies major. His senior year, over winter break, Zhang returned to China and in just five days shot a short feature that he’d written about a teen and his father struggling to connect. He starred as the boy, and persuaded a local fisherman with no acting experience to play opposite.

Forty-five rough cuts later, the film debuted on campus. He entered the work in several contests and the accolades rolled in. When Locarno officials accepted his film, Zhang, who now works as a freelance director and video editor in Beijing, was thrilled — and stunned. “The thing I remember most from Locarno was the applause,” Zhang says. “It really touched me. Art house cinema is dying, so it’s great to be with people who are willing to travel across the world to see these kinds of films. I really appreciated that.”

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