From Cannes to IFFNY in New York: The creative and successful journey of Charles Dong

Cookie Heart” by Charles Xiuzhi Dong will screen at 6:00PM on Sunday, May 27, 2018 at Producers Club Theater (358 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036). It is written by Charles Xiuzhi Dong & Stefan Nachmann, produced by Jenny He, James Qiu, Gabriela Naumnik. The cast talented includes: Norah Hoffmann, Anders Geipel, Smitty Chai, Arianna Williams. 

Charles Dong is a talented writer-director from China, who studied in the US at the young age of sixteen. Majoring Film & Television in New York University, Charles also studied German extensively at Leipzig University. Having years of filmmaking experience internationally, his latest work Cookie Heart has been selected by many international film festivals: including Cannes Film Festival, International Filmmaker Festival of New York, and Calcutta International Cult Film Festival, Alternative Film Festival.


His passion for cinema has driven him to direct variety of narrative and documentary films throughout his time at NYU. Charles’ breadth of experience and knowledge of cultures from various countries ties his work under the theme of immigrant minorities. He hopes to portray their slice of life through the art of moving images.


Meet the Artist: NY Elite Interview with Writer and Director Charles Dong

NY Elite: Congratulations on being an official selection at the prestigious International Filmmaker Festival of New York. What are your thoughts about being accepted at IFFNY 2018 film festival and having your film screen in New York City?

Charles Dong: It is a great honor being able to premiere one of my most ambitious short films in the City of New York. The place where I found my deep passion for filmmaking. I have been producing and crewing for other people’s films for many years, and finally having the opportunity to screen my first serious short in this festival: It is an absolute dream come true.

NY Elite: Out of the 500 submissions world-wide, your film was selected as the top 40 for IFFNY. What does this mean for you in terms of representing your country/city at this international film competition?

Charles Dong: Although I was born and raised in China, I found the process of absorption and learning the culture of countries I traveled to be very thrilling. Reflecting on the summer I spent in Leipzig, I thought to myself that there is no better time to make a German film than now, which is why I am astounded with the success this movie has been receiving due to the dynamic mixture of cultural perspectives.

NY Elite: With what project are you partaking at IFFNY 2018? What is it about?

Charles Dong: I will be sharing Cookie Heart at IFFNY 2018, the film appears as if shoots on one single take, about naive Lisa flies across the world to surprise her childhood crush Fabian on his birthday, only to double-back the same night when she discovers he’s become an enormous asshole.

NY Elite: Who else is involved in the making of this project? Tell us a little bit more about the story and who is in it.  

Charles Dong: The story is actually based on my cinematographer who also my friend, Stefan Nachmann. A year ago, when we were roommates in our second year of college, his female childhood friend kind of gave him a surprise visit. He realized things are not the same anyone, and things happen during her stay, so after she left, one night, we were out partying, I was half joking that I would make a film about it, and it will also shoot in one take. And somehow, things come together, I met my assistant director and producer, Jenny He and James Qiu who help me to put this project together, then we have Cookie Heart!

NY Elite: What message do you want to convey with this project?

Charles Dong: This project, to me, is almost like a cinematic experiment, where I can convey a deep sense of loss and hopelessness through a 15-minute-one-take short film. There are times when one’s expectations just fall so far away from reality that one is clueless of who to blame.

In Cookie Heart, Lisa came all the from Germany to surprise his sweet childhood friend, but a giant jerk showed up to the door instead. She has no idea what to do, and ends up abuse alcohol to forget about her mistakes. Ultimately, the film is about loneliness, especially living in such a huge city with all these people around, but sometimes it feels worst because of that.


NY Elite: The Red Carpet Opening Ceremony and the Awards Gala will take place at the renowned Kaufman Astoria Studios of New York.  Do you plan to attend the IFFNY Festival taking place on May 25-29, 2018? What do you want the audience at IFFNY to take away from this film?

Charles Dong: I will be attending the IFFNY Festival, I do not expect my audience take away anything, as long as they are having fun.

NY Elite: What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?

Charles Dong: To me, many things makes a great film, but what matters the most is the story: if it moves me or not.

NY Elite: Top 3 favorite films/projects you have been involved in?

Charles Dong: I was fortunate enough to work on another short film that I produced called ‘442 soldiers’ which is about Asian American soldier during WWII fighting against the NAZIs in Europe.

Also another feature documentary ‘Dinner with Choy’ about the life of documentary filmmaker Christine Choy and her revolution.

Charles Dong: The latest one is a short film I was just finish directing, ‘Last Days in Chinatown’, about a Chinese veterans Zhao Gang, who fought against Vietnam during Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979 and now he reside in NYC, working as a restaurant waiter. The chef just so happens to be from Vietnam, where his brother died in the hands of Chinese soldiers. Therefore, the loss of a love one displaces as a fervent national hatred towards Zhao Gang.

NY Elite: What are your career highlights and achievements thus far?

Charles Dong: As a Junior student, making Cookie Heart and being selected by many festivals around the world including IFFNY is definitely my biggest achievement. I am extremely appreciative that my film was recognized by many others.

NY Elite: Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?

Charles Dong: I am very dedicated in cinematic art, and all I want to do is tell stories, no matter in what role I am doing it, I have tried many different department in film carrier: such as lighting, art, as production. I realized directing is the only role that I am most confident and comfortable in playing. And here I am.

NY Elite: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in filmmaking?

Charles Dong: Although it may seem cliché, my only advice is to work hard on your passions no matter how ambitious it might seem. I was extremely shocked in the response I received for my films without expecting anything in particular.

NY Elite: What’s next for you?

Charles Dong: I recently start a production company called ‘Chalice Films’ with my producer and friend Branton Choi, I will be focus on building the company network and also another independent project I am going to work on in the summer which will be take place in my home country, China.

In May, I hope to return to my roots in documentary filmmaking by travelling to Honduras with a charity organization. I will document the development of small communities, as more schools and facilities are being built there. Eager to learn and experience more.



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