The Damp Season

The appearance of the mother's alter personality, a girl the same age as the daughter, stirs up ripples in their long-estranged relationship.

  • Olivia Huilin Gao
  • Olivia Huilin Gao
  • Chris Zilong Wang
  • James Jiaqi Zheng
  • Jena Ji
    Key Cast
  • Kelly Wong
    Key Cast
    "Young Aidy"
  • Yen Wen Chen
    Key Cast
    "Middle-aged Aidy"
  • Ethan Wen
  • Ingrid Zhang
    Production Designer
  • Esmeralda Han
    Production Designer
  • Project Type:
    Short, Student
  • Genres:
    Drama, Family, Asian, Short
  • Runtime:
    14 minutes 15 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    September 25, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    7,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
    Yes - New York University Tisch School of the Arts
Director Biography - Olivia Huilin Gao

Olivia Huilin Gao is a Chinese director and production designer based in New York City and China. She is currently pursuing a BFA Degree in Film & TV Production at NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

Olivia’s passion in filmmaking lies in delving into the intricacies of human psychology within the rich tapestry of Asian Pacific American (APA) culture, particularly from the female perspective and within the realms of family dynamics. Beyond mere storytelling, she firmly believes in the transformative power of cinema, which lies in its capacity to evoke profound emotion and immerse audiences in captivating atmospheres.

Hailing from the vibrant coastal city of Shenzhen, Olivia’s artistic vision is profoundly shaped by the humid subtropical environment of her upbringing. Her deep-rooted connection to the physical and cultural aspects of her hometown fuels her exploration of the interplay between individuals and the surrounding physical space as portrayed on the screen.

Olivia’s films are characterized by their profound emotional resonance and the immersive sensory experience they offer. She places paramount importance on establishing a powerful connection between the audience and the depicted physical spaces on the screen, ensuring an indelible imprint on the viewer’s senses and emotions.

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Director Statement

Shuyan and Aidy’s journey to reconnect with their cultural heritage mirrors my observations of numerous Chinese Americans and the newer generation of Chinese individuals. They grapple with the influence of toxic traditional ideologies, recognizing the impact on their lives. Despite their awareness, these beliefs had become internalized within them, subtly influencing their interactions with those in their sphere. People can’t grow into someone outside of their environments. Change takes time. Before that is persistent rain, leaving us yearning for the eventual arrival of a sunny day.

The story stemmed from a captivating idea: What if my mother and I were the same age? Could our estranged relationship undergo a profound transformation? This set the premises for this story between Shuyan, the daughter, and Aidy, the mother.

While exploring this idea, I became intrigued by the essential elements that define a mother-daughter bond. That's where the goldfish metaphor comes in. It represents the early stage of an infant embryo inside the mother's womb, which is the starting point of everything.

Of course, in this film, goldfish means more than that. It’s also a secret between Shuyan and Aidy, as well as their existential status. Like goldfish trapped within the goldfish bowl, they find themselves unable to grow into the individuals they aspire to be. The mother is ensnared by the shackles of her original family in China, while the daughter is confined by her relationship with her mother. Chinese traditional ideology of family, and the son-preference persist, even though they escaped physically.

To externalize the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship, I aim to create a relatively isolated environment. I am immensely grateful to Esmeralda and Ying for providing the perfect setting—a space that feels both secluded and oddly comforting, allowing the characters to navigate their emotions in a distinct manner.

Collaborating closely with my cinematographer, Ethan, we have explored numerous creative techniques and visual approaches to capture the essence of the story. This process has enabled us to truly bring the lower class immigrant experience to the forefront. Also thanks to Lena, Kelly, and Yen Wen for exploring the intricate nuances of the mother-daughter relationship with their excellent performance.

In general, thanks to all of my crew for their devoted work. Without them, it’s impossible to craft this atmospheric landscape, which guides the audience into “the Damp Season.”