'Iron Hands' by Students and Alumni Now Streaming on Vimeo

BY Felix van Kann, May 6, 2020

Iron Hands, written and directed by alumnus Johnson Cheng ’19, was released on Vimeo Staff Picks last week. The film was produced by current student Tianqi Zhuo, co-produced by alumna Xixi Wang ’18 and associate produced by current student Yachi Yang. Current student Shipei Wen served as Director of Photography. 


The film, an 8-12 minute project from Cheng’s first year at Columbia, showed at over 30 film festivals. It had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2017 and its Canadian premiere at the 21st TIFF Kids International Film Festival. It also received the Best Student Live Action Short Film Award at the 23rd Palm Springs International Short Film Festival. Iron Hands was also featured on Sports Illustrated (Short Circuit: Best of Tribeca), Directors Notes, and was licensed by Topic Studios and Film Movement.


Iron Hands tells the story of a 12-year-old girl who, as she prepares for her final test trying out for the traditionally all-boys Chinese youth Olympic weightlifting team, makes an unlikely connection with the gym's reclusive groundskeeper.


Johnson Cheng is an award-winning Chinese American writer/director hailing from the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County. His films have screened at over 100 international film festivals, including Tribeca, TIFF Kids, Reykjavík (Golden Egg Selection), Nashville, Florida, Cinequest, Uppsala, Giffoni, Short Shorts Tokyo, and Palm Springs (Best Student Film Award). Johnson is a recipient of the prestigious Princess Grace Award (Cary Grant Film Award) and the AT&T InspirASIAN Student Film Award. He is an alumnus of the New York Film Festival Artist Academy, Telluride Film Festival Student Symposium, Reykjavík Transatlantic Talent Lab, Short to Feature Lab, Visual Communications’ Armed With a Camera Fellowship, and Columbia University’s M.F.A. Film Directing/Screenwriting program. Johnson is a member of the Motion Picture Editors Guild.