The Emotional and Literal Journey of Peiqi Peng’s Suntanned Orange
The heart of the film Suntanned Orange is built upon communication and travel. The film’s director and producer, Peiqi Peng, took this premise to a literal place with both her cast and crew traversing multiple states to film this Chinese language film. The mutual dependency that is cultivated by such a scenario exists within the story as well as the filmmaking process of Suntanned Orange, and it’s better for it. Peiqi not only understands how to craft a magnificent tale, she exhibits with this film that she has an inclination for placing her team in an emotional space to gain an intuitive rapport with the theme. A nomination for Outstanding Cinematic Achievement at Evvy 38, a win (for Sound Mixer Jedy Shiheng Xu) in the category of Outstanding Sound Design at the same event, as well as a win at the Independent Shorts Award and status as an Official Selection at numerous film festivals (Chinese American Film Festival, LA Shorts International Film Festival, etc.) punctuates this film’s resonance with the industry as well as film goers.
Suntanned Orange is an emotional experience rather than simply a narrative. Traversing across the American Southwest with a travel group, a Chinese teenager (Emily Fan) and her father (David Li) experience their last trip together before the loss of his custody battle. When the young girl ditches her dad, she meets a woman who plans to exit the travel group and live as an undocumented person in the US. Recognizing a kindred spirit who is searching for meaning and peace, both learn that their future rests in their own hands. One of the most alluring aspects of the story and the way it is presented rests in the ability of the audience to emotionally recognize parts of themselves in each of the main characters. All of them seem to be searching for a sense of identity while discovering the direction their life course is on. It’s remarkable filmmaking such as this which establishes multiple avenues of connectivity and provides an understanding of our commonality even with our individuality. Peiqi acknowledges this as an artist stating, “I believe being a creative and an artist is never about following other people’s path, but creating your own. The goal I envisioned for myself is this: producing universal stories that are emotionally accessible to a wide range of global audiences through unique, specific, and innovative storytelling formats that have never been achieved before.”
Through the eyes of the group of Chinese tourists, the diversity of the American landscape is featured. The potential of each new location proposes varied outcomes alongside their aesthetic allure. From museums to the visually cacophonous Las Vegas to wide open vistas in the countryside, literal and emotional discovery is encouraged in the story. In addition to working with professionals like cinematographer Qin Ziwei, Peiqi was excited by the notion of using picturesque locations in the United States to complement the main character’s excursions of the heart. She remarks, “I believe film is first and foremost a visual format, and I’m happy we got to fully take advantage of that through the awe-inspiring natural beauty we presented on screen. We got to film in many State Parks and natural landmarks, with the highlight being shooting at the Grand Canyon. The incredible production value you get from shooting in an iconic, world-renown landmark like that is indisputable and something you can never achieve shooting on a stage. The beauty and scale of the locations is one thing that many audiences mentioned to us post screenings.”
There are films which cannot be accurately described in a plot summary. Suntanned Orange is a film which must be felt. The rudderless sense of longing that this young girl feels is potent because it is the perfect blend of performance, setting, directing, and the specific departments that somehow unify in filmmaking at its highest level. Peiqi relates a story about one scene in which the young girl and the woman stare at a group of hills and without exposition, it is understood that they share a magical connection. This moment was the result of reshoots months after principal photography had concluded; confirming that filmmaking, as with the life of these characters, is the realization of what you desire while actively pursuing it. The results can be marvelous if one only engages in seeking the best outcome with every bit of your spirit. Suntanned Orange is a transfixing film created by extraordinary filmmakers who remind us of the great potential all around us.
Writer: Winston Scott