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Huilan Xu is a photographer and filmmaker born and grew up in southern China. It is a warm tropical area where rain and heat are the prominent parts of her life. School, factory, village, city, and family are five major institutions that shape her and her understanding of the world. They are also the key sources of inspiration for her, which she expresses through various mediums, including photography, film, writing, painting, and installation. 


With photography, she is specifically keen on sequencing, abstraction, structure, and landscape. She seeks to provoke collisions between imagines so to have a complicated experience with the images. Her works are usually enigmatic, like puzzles, through which she desires to not only depict the ineffable through the ambiguity of images but also invite and engage her viewers into the process of interpreting and solving the work in the way they wish. 


In terms of filmmaking and directing, her artistic approach revolves around structural improvisation. She proceeds filmmaking as a process about being together, where team members are trusted with their potential and are encouraged to contribute their best. As she tries to communicate universal emotions with visual languages, she also tries to utilize the power of collective improvisation by allowing all the crew members and actors to express creativity and make mistakes within a planned, organized structure that ensures production at a reasonable cost.


Her ultimate goal is to fight against the ubiquitous alienation present in everyday life. Though in doubt about the ability artworks have in changing the world, she believes storytelling is a collective dance we do in the face of darkness. Though history always repeats itself in creating human tragedies, a good film can be a close companion from which traumas find their expressions. 

B.F.A. Film, Photography, and Visual Arts, Ithaca College, 2021

M.F.A. Film and Television Production, University of Southern California, 2026


* photo @ Libby O'Neill *

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