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An Artist’s Journey From China To America

Directed by Bilan Liao  / Reviewed by Adva Reichman

‘An Artist’s Journey from China to America’ is a documentary that tells the story of one incredibly brave and strong woman from deep poverty and hopelessness, to great achievements and undying hope. This film beautifully captures a dream shared by many worldwide – The American Dream.

In her film, BiLan Liao, a renowned artist, shares her life story and difficult journey from growing up under the Chinese dictator, Mao Zedong’s government, to becoming an educated successful artist and professor in America. This unique film uses her art work to tell her past, shed light on her path and reveal her determined spirit.

When the government changed, BiLan and her family lost it all. Doomed to labor work, her father was sent to prison and her mother struggled to feed BiLan and her siblings. Each child rose to challenge and helped support themselves through hunger, poverty and countless restrictions. Her father ended taking his own life and her younger sister died. BiLan dreamt of education and ceased any opportunity she had to learn from those who surrounded her. The years went by and BiLan found herself trapped in an unsuccessful marriage with a man who did not accept their daughter or supported them in any way. When China yet again allowed for her to receive an education, her husband forbade it. BiLan was not one to give up on her dreams. With the wise advice of a monk, and the unwavering support of her mother, she got her diploma and fought to create a better life for herself and her daughter.

As a little girl, BiLan watched her father illegally listening to the radio to find news from America. At the age of 45, she made her dreams come true and moved to the States with her daughter. Finally, she was free to receive further education and use her art to tell all the stories her heart desired, without needing to adhere to any censorship.

Since then,BiLan earned two master’s degrees in art, studied art in Italy, and became an art college professor in Kentucky, where she built the BiLan Liao Gallery. Her work was presented all over the worldand her book, “Diary of the Dragon’s Daughter” received the 2019 Readers’ Favorite Book Review and Award. She also found the love of her life and entered a happy deserving marriage. Her husband, Ken Scroggs, also took part in the film and helped bring this story to life.

This film is about strength, endurance and belief. It implores its viewers to never give up and follow their dreams. It asks them to remember the past and to learn from it so that we can all have a better future.

Personally, I was glued to the screen. Eager to learn about a time and place I did not know enough about. To watch how persistence and hard work can bring joyful outcomes and be at awe at the strength BiLan demonstrated during her life. 

In her director’s statement, BiLan wishes “audiences learn from this film about Chinese culture, history and my life in America, which is especially relevant today because of the hate crimes against Asians and other people of color.”

‘An Artist’s Journey from China to America’ is filled with tragedies and heartbreak, difficult decisions and bravery,and of course great victories and inspiring moments. Its beauty shines through in every scene and the remarkable art work gives it a unique distinction. Absolutely recommend it.


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