Spotlight: Asian American Filmmaker
With unprecedented access SURF NATION is a feature-length observational documentary that tells a story beginning in Hainan, China’s southernmost province where hundreds of athletes as young as 9-years-old train as part of the Chinese National Surf team. Aspiring Chinese athletes and their international coaches arrive in the island of Hainan. Together, they attempt to become the country’s first Olympic surfers. SURF NATION follows this team and two of China’s top surfers, Alex and Lolo, as they train, compete and discover what they want their lives to be. These young recruits have left their families around the country and are paid to become surfers with Olympic aspirations. Shot in a tropical paradise with miles of empty beaches, aspiring athletes and their international coaches live in an old hotel that has become the hub of surfing in China. The kids surf and take classes six days a week. The pressure of failure looms over them as weak performance means dismissal. Their Australian coaches teach technique and surfing’s central attribute: individuality, in a culture that demands conformity. Co-directors Jeremiah M. Bogert Jr. and Jessica Q. Chen stop by to talk about gaining the confidence of Chinese officials, the commitment of the world newest superpower to surfing as well as the opportunity to meet and spend time with young athletes as they learn to master nature’s wildest ride.
About the filmmaker – Director and Producer Jessica Q. Chen is a Chinese American filmmaker and video producer at the Los Angeles Times. Her work includes the WOMEN OF APOLLO series, which was nominated for an Emmy in 2020; and a short documentary on Caroline Marks, the youngest surfer to qualify for the World Surf League’s championship tour, which won an L.A. Press Award. She was an associate producer for National Geographic’s HELL ON EARTH:THE FALL OF SYRIA AND THE RISE OF ISIS which premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. She has lived in New Zealand and Jordan, has a master’s from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a bachelor’s in biology from the University of California, Irvine. She speaks Mandarin and basic Arabic.
About the filmmaker – Director and Producer Jeremiah M. Bogert Jr. is currently a photo editor at The New York Times and has more than 25 years of experience producing award-winning visual stories. He was the photo assignments editor at The New York Times during the 9/11 terrorist attacks for which the paper won two Pulitzer Prizes in photography. While at the Los Angeles Times, he edited a story on victims of gang violence which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2011 and was part of the team awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2016 for coverage of the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino. Additionally, at the Los Angeles Times, he produced several short documentaries, including CHASING THE SWELL, a 2012 film about big wave surfing. He received his BA in philosophy from Yale University and his MA in journalism from the University of Missouri.