Still from Like Flying, written by Peier Tracy Shen ’17 (CC)

Two Filmmakers Featured in 'Who Will Start Another Fire', Debut Anthology from Dedza Films

BY Angeline Dimambro, July 15, 2021

Columbia University Film and Media Studies BA alumna Peier Tracy Shen ’17 (CC) and MFA Film student Olive Nwosu are both featured in Who Will Start Another Fire, a nine-part film anthology presented by the new distribution initiative, Dedza Films.


The anthology, which runs 130 minutes in length, is a collection of films by emerging filmmakers from underrepresented communities around the world. The stories included in the series are deeply personal and distinctly told, but unified by themes of rebirth and growth. The anthology’s title alludes to Malawian poet Jack Mapanje’s Before Chilembwe Tree (1981). In the poem, Mapanje asks “Who will start another fire?” By omitting the question mark, but maintaining the language, Dedza Films, through the collected stories of these emerging filmmakers, proposes an answer to Mapanje’s question.


Like Flying, written and directed by Shen, is among the films featured in the anthology. The fifteen-minute short follows a young Chinese-American girl as she navigates her childhood through her parents’ broken relationship. 


“I wanted more,” reads Shen’s director’s statement. “I wanted more voices, more hugs, more kindness. If I had been Angrier, Cleverer, Dearer, Easier, Funnier, Gentler, Hungrier, Idler, Jauntier, Keener, Louder, Madder, Nicer, Obtuser, Prettier, Quieter, Rowdier, Stronger, Tamer, Unrulier, Vainer, Yappier, Zanier, Better or just a Winner, I would’ve had more. Maybe then, I would’ve grown up, Wanting less.”


The film has been selected to screen at numerous festivals, including the Nashville Film Festival 2020, Palm Springs International Shortfest 2021, and Cinequest Film Festival 2021.


Peier “Tracy” Shen is a Chinese writer-director currently based in Los Angeles. Her shorts have been selected as part of GSA BAFTA Student Shortlist and Oscar-qualifying festivals such as Cleveland, Palm Springs Shortfest, LA Shorts, St. Louis, Nashville, and Cinequest, among others. Her feature screenplay, A Graduation, has been selected to participate in the Cine Qua Non Script Revision Lab, sponsored by IMCINE and the Academy. She is also a member of the BAFTA LA Newcomers Program 2021. She graduated with honors from Columbia University, with a double major in English and Film & Media Studies, and recently obtained her MFA in Directing from the AFI Conservatory. Shen is currently in development for the feature-length version of Like Flying, a coming-of-age dramedy about a young Chinese girl confronting her first heartbreaks at an English language camp in the US.


Also featured in the anthology is Nwosu’s short film, Troublemaker. The short follows Obi, who is hot, bored, and desperate for something to do. When his best friend, Emeka, gives him a packet of firecrackers, the boys decide to have some fun. However, things escalate in unexpected ways, as Obi learns for the first time that actions have consequences, and that there are still things he cannot understand.

Still from Troublemaker, by student Olive Nwosu

“My father lived through the Nigerian Civil War. He was only a boy when it happened, and it is an event he rarely speaks of,” reads Nwosu’s director’s statement. “Still, the war lurked in my own childhood—a dropped comment by Dad about how his family had to flee their ancestral home; a burdened silence whenever the war was brought up in conversation; knowing looks within the extended family, loaded with hidden meaning. This silence has gnawed at me for as long as I can remember...This silence is where the beginnings of Troublemaker lie...Troublemaker is about a young boy who too is subconsciously angered by the silence of those he trusts. It is about generational trauma, and the great harm it can cause on those without agency or understanding. The film was shot with a group of entirely non-actor, local people from a small village that lived through the war themselves. It is an attempt to ask questions about how we deal with old wounds.”


Troublemaker won the Best Student Film Award at the Discover Film Festival 2019 as well as the 2020 National Board of Review Student Award. Nwosu also received the Best Director Award at the Queens World Film Festival 2020 in recognition of her incredible work on the short. Additionally, Troublemaker was nominated in the categories of Best Short at both the Raindance Film Festival and the Africa in Motion Film Festival 2020.The film has screened at Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival 2020, Aspen Film Festival 2020, Carmarthen Bay Film Festival 2020, Albany Film Festival 2020, Tel Aviv International Student Film Festival 2020, Barcelona International African Film Festival 2020, Ciné Regards Africains 2020, and the New York African Film Festival 2020.


Read more about Nwosu’s process of making Troublemaker in the School of the Arts series, On A Global Scale.


Olive Nwosu (born in Lagos, Nigeria) is a BAFTA LA 2020 scholar, Alex Sichel Fellow at Columbia University School of the Arts, and one of four ‘African Promises’ directors selected for the Institut Français’ Africa-2020 program. Nwosu studied documentary filmmaking in Prague and worked in advertising in London, before moving to New York to attend Columbia University School of the Arts, where she will receive an MFA in Screenwriting and Directing. Her work is generally informed by the fragmentary nature of her experiences across various continents and identities. Themes typically focus on the place of the outsider and the African, challenging the status quo of whom and what we have grown accustomed to seeing on screen.


Who Will Start Another Fire is playing now in theaters, virtual cinemas, and streaming now at KINONOW.