Xinyi Zhu’s film Kindling takes us an emotional yet relatable journey

Kindling dramatizes a stunning coming of age story of two estranged childhood best friends confront each other about who they were and what they have become when one drives the other to get an abortion. Directed by Xinyi Zhu, this film reflects on the pains of growing up, and how relationships ebb and flow with time. The title of the film meant to be a metaphor for the antagonistic relationship between these two old friends, as emotions bubble to the surface and true feelings become revealed, the fire that burns on the power of this burning friendship can either allow them to hit it off or further hurt themselves.

When we’re children, we hold on to each other, believe we had made our life-long friends, that the people who were our people would always be there. The reality is people grow apart, life ambitions, and conflicting realities get in the way and test our beliefs in each other. This film focuses on one such relationship between two girls, Celeste and Piper. They grew up a united force in a trailer park community and were separated when Celeste chose to move away to college, rather than stay behind and follow dreams she and Piper had dreamed together as kids. Despite seeing this as a betrayal, Piper is there for her childhood friend when she needs her most, unlike the glossy and preppy sorority sisters Celeste chose not to tell. Even the clothes they wear and how they hold themselves indicate the opposite sides of the bridge between them. Celeste with her bright, clean white blouse and jeans, in her trendy and well, kept updo, versus Piper with a more laidback, loose style, her hair falling freely.

The film takes us on the journey of these girls past and futures, shot through the micro-expressions of both Jill Renner and Nicole Falk as they navigate the turbulent waters, they now find themselves in.

The music is well selected and matches the journey the film takes us on, ‘Facts of Life’ by Paige Stark and ‘Ecological Prosperity’ by Jean Macheret take us through the girls’ past, and how their current circumstance differs. When they reconnect and their friendship rekindles we hear ‘Start A Fire’ by The Shivas. Despite the fall out from the confrontation over their broken friendship, Piper still offers Celeste her support through it all, and Celeste reaches out in the end. The songs ‘I won’t let you down’ by Alexander Kalinowski and ‘Can’t Cut Loose’ by Erin Rae, perfectly encapsulate these moments in the film.

The time in between did nothing to stop their ability to read each other and think of the other’s interest first. That despite their estrangement, they are still each other’s source of comfort in the face of extreme prejudice.

Director Xinyi Zhu’s most recent short Kindling was selected for the 2020 Palm Springs International ShortFest and won the Best Drama Award at the 2020 USC First Look Film Festival. Xinyi is co-directing a USC-Warner Bros. feature Phantom that is looking to be in production in August 2020 and is developing her first feature film Nanzhou Brothers, which she also wrote. Zhu works with non-fictional content as well and worked on Quaran-Zine Connections, a mini-documentary she made with the Asian American Documentary Network (A-DOC). In her work, she aims to explore intimate relationships, genders, and topics about trans-corporeality and poststructuralism.

Go and check out Kindling when you can. Kindling is a brilliant film we will all be able to relate to.

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