Carnegie Mellon University
December 05, 2023

Hidden Letters Screening & Talk with Director Violet Feng

By Isaac Fisher

The Carnegie Mellon University International Film Festival announced that the film “Hidden Letters will be featured on Dec. 7 at the McConomy Auditorium. It marks the combined efforts of directors Violet Du Feng and Qing Zhao and Academy Award nominated producer Su Kim (“Hale County This Morning, This Evening”), as well as Emmy-nominated producers Jean Tsien (“76 Days”) and Mette Cheng Munthe-Kaas (“Nowhere to Hide”).

Taking viewers on a journey from the past to present, “Hidden Letters” follows two millennial Chinese women who are connected by their interest with the secret language of sisterhood and their wish to protect it. Historically, In China, women were forced into oppressive marriages where they were prohibited from reading or writing. To cope, they developed and shared a secret language among themselves called Nüshu, which was written in poems on paper-folded fans and handkerchiefs. These hidden letters connected generations of Chinese women. Fascinated by Nüshu’s legacy of female solidarity, the two women struggle to navigate their own journeys in a patriarchal society.

“The legacy of Nüshu should not only exist in China. Rather, it’s for a wider audience,” said Du Feng in an interview with “The China Project.” “I want people across the world to know about Nüshu and that’s how it will thrive and continue to live on as a code of defiance.”

Du Feng is an Emmy Award winning independent documentarian, as well as a 2018 Sundance Film Festival Creative Producing Fellow. She began her career with “Nanking,” which won both Peabody and Emmy Awards, and was named a 2007 Sundance Special Jury winner. Shortly before “Hidden Letters,” she directed “Harbor from the Holocaust” for PBS. Currently, she is working on forthcoming films, “People’s Hospital,” “Dark Is Not Black” and “Running with the Prime Minister,” and is a consulting programmer for the Shanghai International Film Festival. 

The CMU International Film Festival continues to screen films by some of the best-known directors working in the global market, all of whom have decades-long, prize-winning careers; Eric Gravel, Saim Sadiq, Maha Haj, Anna Jadowska and now Violet Du Feng with “Hidden Letters.”

“Hidden Letters” will be shown on Thursday, Dec. 7th in the McConomy Auditorium, Jared L. Cohon University Center, 5000 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, Penn. 15213, USA from 7:30–10:00 p.m. 

A question and answer session with Du Feng will follow the screening where participants can discuss the film and beyond, after the screening.

A Nüshu calligraphy workshop with Cindy Sun, Principal Lecturer of Chinese Studies in Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences at CMU will be held on Dec. 9 at 2:30 p.m. in Hunt Library. During this workshop, participants will have the opportunity to decorate Chinese fans with Nüshu calligraphy. Capacity is limited to 40 participants. Register for the workshop on the CMU International Film Festival website.

Tickets for screening and director discussion are available on the CMU International Film Festival Website.

These events are brought to you by: Frederick Honors College, CMU Sustainability Initiatives, Heinz College DICE, CMU Modern Languages, Pittsburgh Chinese Cultural Center, University of Pittsburgh Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Awareness of Roots in Chinese Culture - volunteers for workshop, CMU Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, Midwest Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Screenshot Asia and the University of Pittsburgh Chinese Affinity Group.