In Person

Screening & Conversation with the Director: Hidden Letters

March 2, 2023
6:30 - 8:45 PM EST

Nushu (女书), a secret language written in calligraphy shared by generations of Chinese women in their covert support of sisterhood, hope and survival, is now disappearing. Created during a time when women were not allowed to read or write, Nushu was used to communicate their pain, resistance and support with each other. Fast forward to modern China, is Nushu still relevant when women have access to higher education and enjoy equal treatment in society? What are the challenges and implications, if any, that women still face today?

Join China Institute for the screening of the award-winning documentary, Hidden Letters, on March 2nd, followed by a conversation with Director Violet Du Feng, hosted by Karen Ma, film scholar and movie critic specializing in Chinese cinema. Spanning past and present Hidden Letters follows two millennial Chinese women, connected by their fascination with the secret language of sisterhood and their desire to protect it.

This program is made possible through the support of the Chinese International Education Foundation, and generous supporters of China Institute.
This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.


Violet Du Feng

Violet Du Feng is the Director and Producer of Hidden Letters. She is an Emmy winning independent documentarian and a 2018 Sundance Creative Producing Fellow. Her producing credits include Singing in the Wilderness, Confucian Dream, Maineland, and Please Remember Me. She directed the most recent PBS/CPB special program Harbor from the Holocaust, which had a national premiere in September 2020 with music performed by Yo-Yo Ma. She started her career as a co-producer on the critically acclaimed 2007 Sundance Special Jury winner, Peabody and Emmy winner Nanking, which was distributed theatrically around 30 countries throughout the world, and was the highest grossing documentary in China. Violet is the producer of the forthcoming films People’s Hospital, Dark Is Not Black and Running with the Prime Minister. Violet is a consulting programmer for Shanghai International Film Festival. Born in Shanghai, and based in New York, Violet holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and received her MFA in journalism from University of California at Berkeley.

Karen Ma

Karen Ma is the author of the book China’s Millennial Digital Generation: Conversations with Balinghou Indie Filmmakers published in June 2022 by Long River Press. An independent film scholar and movie critic specializing in Chinese cinema, she taught Chinese culture and film courses at The Beijing Center of Chinese Studies before relocating to the US in 2017. Ma has a bachelor’s degree from Tokyo’s Sophia University and an M.A. in Chinese literature from the University of Washington, Seattle. She is also the author of Excess Baggage (China Books, 2013), a novel about a Chinese family’s struggle to make its way in Tokyo. She has been teaching at China Institute in Chinese language and Chinese cinema courses since 2021.

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