Yi Cui

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Yi Cui

Assistant Professor of Art

Department/Office Information

306 Little Hall

As a filmmaker, I refrain from defining my work as representing a certain genre. Instead, I allow a leitmotif to develop freely, and to guide me as I look for an articulate formal expression. The search for the rhythm and poetics that are unique to the cinematic medium is a recurring theme in my practice. 

I am interested in weaving this formal pursuit into works that engage with pressing cultural and social questions. In my film Of Shadows, for example, I intertwined two narrative lines to juxtapose urban spectacles with grassroots traditions, provoking viewers to encounter the profound dilemma faced by individuals situated between contemporary reality and the traditional past. Underneath the narrative structure, I worked to create a continuous rhythmic flow, which is essential for the film's emotional engagement with the viewers. 

The open process of my work allows me to deploy the cinematic medium as a tool to study, to understand, and to embrace the time-space I encounter. Inspired by great filmmakers, such as Ogawa Shinsuke, I make it a principle not to impose the time-space of a preconceived structure on what surrounds me on the ground. Instead, I first immerse myself in a place and the rhythms of local life. My creative process emerges out of such experience and thus evolves intertwined with my relationship to the place and the people. 

In recent years, I have been living and working in Tibetan communities to facilitate the local people in their autoethnographic filmmaking and cultural revitalization. This open-ended journey, which has challenged me to interrogate and redefine my own practice, is gradually growing into a personal film essay project that I am currently working on.

MFA, Film and Video, York University

MS, Ecology, University of Michigan

BS, Ecology, 北京大學 (Peking University)

School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver

Programme of Film Production, Jigme Gyaltsen School, Tibet


Digital and analogue filmmaking, photography, Chinese ink painting and calligraphy, Asian cinema, ethnography, religion and culture in Tibet.

  • 2020 Explore and Create Grant, Canada Council For the Arts
  • 2019 Best Short Film Award, American Society for Visual Anthropology
  • 2018 Kinokneipen-Preis Audience Award nominee, 24th International Short Film Week Regensburg, Germany
  • 2018 Arts Abroad Travel Grant, Canada Council For the Arts
  • 2017 Outstanding Teacher Award, Jigme Gyaltsen School, Tibet
  • 2017 Grand Prize, International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Germany
  • 2017 Bois d'Arcy Prisoners’ Award, Cinéma du Réel, Paris, France
  • 2017 Special Mention of the Jury, Festival Cinemistica, Granada, Spain
  • 2016 Production Grant for Media Artist, Canada Council For the Arts
  • 2016 Libraries Award, Cinéma du Réel (As the awarded work, Of Shadows was selected for inclusion in the audio visual collection at the public library of Centre Pompidou), Paris, France 
  • 2016 Bright Future Award nominee, Rotterdam International Film Festival, Netherlands
  • 2016 Chinese Documentary Award nominee, Taiwan International Documentary Festival, Taipei, Taiwan
  • 2016 Best Canadian Documentary Award nominee, DOXA International Documentary Film Festival, Vancouver, Canada
  • 2015 Award to Media Artist, Toronto Arts Council
  • 2015 Media Artist Grant, Ontario Arts Council
  • 2013 MIDA Production Grant, Jury Award, Shanghai, China
  • 2013 Grant to Film and Media Artist, Canada Council For the Arts
  • 2019 American Society for Visual Anthropology Film and Media Festival, Vancouver, Canada
  • 2019  Athens International Film and Video Festival, Athens, USA
  • 2019 Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival,  Nepal
  • 2019 In the Mood for Chinese Cinema – A Showcase of Contemporary Chinese Cinema, Pera Museum, Istanbul, Turkey
  • 2018 24th International Short Film Week Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany
  • 2018 Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, Minneapolis, USA
  • 2018 Busan International Short Film Festival, Curtain Call Section, Busan, South Korea
  • 2018 European Film Festival, Moscow, Russia
  • 2018 Film Festival della Lessinia, Bosco Chiesa Nuova, Italy
  • 2017 Viennale – Vienna International Film Festival, Main Program, Vienna, Austria
  • 2017 International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Oberhausen, Germany
  • 2017 Foradcamp Cinema and Nature Exhibition, Barcelona, Spain
  • 2017 Awarded Film Rerun, The Civil Society of Multimedia Authors (La Scam), Paris, France
  • 2017 Cinéme du Réel, Paris, France
  • 2017 26th Edition of Festival Côté Court, Pantin, France
  • 2017 UNDERDOX Film Festival, Munich, Germany
  • 2017 Cinemaforum Film Festival, Warsaw, Poland
  • 2017 Festival Cinemistica, Granada, Spain
  • 2017 Film Festival Message to Man, International Competition, St. Petersburg, Russia
  • 2017 Cinéma Vérité, “Mirror of Festival” Program, Tehran, Iran
  • 2017  “Meet the Director” Independent Film Series, Hong Kong University, Hong Kong
  • 2017 Festival of Film Festival, Seoul, South Korea
  • 2017 San Diego Asian Film Festival, San Diego, USA
  • 2017 Los Angeles Chinese Film Festival, Los Angeles, USA
  • 2016 The Free Screen/Wavelength, TIFF Cinematheque, Toronto, Canada
  • 2016 Rotterdam International Film Festival, Rotterdam, Netherlands
  • 2016 Cinéme du Réel, Paris, France
  • 2016 EBS International Documentary Festival, Seoul, South Korea
  • 2016 Taiwan International Documentary Festival, Taipei, Taiwan
  • 2016 DOXA International Documentary Film Festival, Vancouver, Canada
  • 2016 Chinese Film Festival, La Rochelle, France
  • 2016 Comptoir du Doc Film Festival, Rennes, France
  • 2016 Lima Independent International Film Festival, Lima, Peru
  • 2016 Film Presentation at Visual Anthropology and Contemporary Chinese Culture Forum, Beijing, China
  • 2013 Images Festival, Toronto, Canada
  • 2013 Australia International Experimental Film Festival, Melbourne, Australia
  • 2013 Seoul International NewMedia Festival (NeMaF), Seoul, South Korea