Private Project

Secret Places

With an urge to be seen and cared for, an Asian teen Xaxa takes an extreme way to show her existence to her mother but soon discovers the power she gained is only short-lived.

  • Nicole Chen
  • Nicole Chen
  • Kelly Chen
  • Melissa Xiao
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Short, Student
  • Runtime:
    14 minutes 58 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    July 31, 2022
  • Production Budget:
    10,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    New Zealand
  • Country of Filming:
    New Zealand
  • Language:
    English, Mandarin Chinese
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
    2:35 :1
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
    Yes - University of Auckland
Director Biography - Nicole Chen

Born and raised in China, I lived just north of the Hong Kong border during the Golden Film era, watching every film I could lay my eyes on. To me, filmmaking was an unreachable dream, one that I am now living.

As an adult, I studied Film/TV/Media at the University of Auckland for 2 years, despite the fact that acting wasn’t a career approved by my family. For the following 5 years, I worked 9-5 in procurement for NZ's Top 10 biggest tech company. When it came to taking the next step I couldn't be surer of where it should be: Film. I gave up my then well-paid job and went back to study. Being accepted by Toi Whakaari, I decided to go to a Film School at the last minute.

I have directed a couple of short films during my undergraduate studies that went into several international film festivals. Away(2017)won the Best Experimental Film at BELIFF London film festival (2018) and was also a Gold Award Winner of the International Student and Newcomer Movie Awards (2018). My first film, Jianjie (2015), was critically acclaimed and screened at 2016 Norwich Radical Film Festival and at the 2017 New York State International Film Festival, as a Semi-finalist.

Recently graduated with MA in Screen Production from the University of Auckland. I have always been attracted to exploring characters living right at the edge of the abyss, a step away from either greatness or destruction. I love those films that are based on true events or those that explore a new angle of an event to reveal the complexities of humankind. I want to explore human emotions in situations where the characters are trapped, fighting to find their way out. I want to talk about us, humans.

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Director Statement

19 is a strange year. While it still counts as your teenage years, 19 is also considered adulthood, where you are expected to know every move you take before you even have to make it. This is the age that carries strong fantasies and emotions, yearns for love and attention, and one’s personality is stretched in full. I want to tell a story of a 19-year-old Chinese girl Xaxa, through her extreme behaviors to illustrate the damages in her, from long-term depression and connivance to lack of guidance and care.

Culture is another important element in this story. Researchers have found that Western cultures tend to be more individualistic while East Asian cultures tend to be more collectivistic. ‘Family is life' holds true in Chinese culture. Xaxa’s father is absent in her life. Xaxa’s mother is desperate to hold on to this one piece of hope that she puts in the western man. She may expect a husband and a father to her child, but that does not often work in the opposite culture. Her child isn’t his child, especially when the ‘child’ is adult enough.

There are also some common phenomena in this story. Such as the spousal age gap in cross-border partnership and a familiar term of racial discrimination. Xaxa is a character who reacts powerfully to these phenomena, however, she is also a product of them.