Experiencing Interruptions?

What We're Owed

In the feverish gold rush of 1857 Australia, Yi Xi, a Chinese miner struggles to uphold her innocence against the thralls of a British colony court threatening to undermine her very existence.

  • Yurou (Selina) Zhang
    A Phone Call to Heaven
  • Matilda Dorman
  • Daniel Chua
    Crazy Rich Asians, Gap Year
  • Shirong Wu
    Key Cast
    "Yi Xi"
  • James S. Lau
    Key Cast
    "Ah Kun"
    Glitch (SE3)
  • Tim Clarke
    Key Cast
    "Judge Anthony "
    The Secret River, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Miss Fisher's Murder
  • Project Title (Original Language):
  • Project Type:
    Short, Student
  • Runtime:
    11 minutes 24 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    November 23, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    15,000 AUD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    Chinese, English
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Distribution Information
  • VCA, The University of Melbourne
    Country: Australia
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Yurou (Selina) Zhang

张予柔 Yurou (Selina) Zhang is an emerging independent filmmaker and writer-director from China, based in Melbourne. Graduate from VCA (Victorian College of Arts) Film & TV, The University of Melbourne. She is an associated member of the ADG (Australia Director Guild). She has directed and been involved in making several independent short films, web series and low-budget feature films. As a filmmaker, Selina's wish is to stir the subconscious, evoking feelings of a very much needed quality of humanity, compassion and empathy; with hopes that it will make an impact towards her audience’s perceptions of their surroundings.

Director of Photography - Harmony Signs (2019, Web Series)
Script Supervisor - Girl, Interpreted (2019, Web Series)
Director/Writer/Producer - A Phone Call to Heaven (2018, Short) – VMC Film Festival - Under 25 Award
Director of Photography - Holden (2018, Short)
Director/Producer - Boys will be Boys (2018, Short)
Director/Writer/Producer - Phubbing (2017, Short)

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

It was only fifteen when I arrived in Australia for the very first time that I began to understand the significance of my cultural background. I began to acknowledge the very nature of what it meant to be different from those around me. As a nation of immigrants, Australia has provided the opportunity to appreciate and understand my cultural background and subsequently embrace the diversity. I am the testimony of my ancestor’s culture.

A filmmaker I wanted to explore the unknown history of early Chinese immigration. A few years ago, I discovered the history of a Chinese community in Victoria that became prosperous in the Gold Rush.
Driven by my curiosity for discovering the exploits of my forefathers, I began to explore and discover the stories, many of which were untold about the lives of the Chinese immigrants. In my research I was immediately attracted by a nameless Chinese woman from the Victorian Goldfield archives who was among three thousand Chinese men who came from Canton in the 1857s. She was only Chinese woman recorded in the official census. It was also during that time the Ballarat Chinese began protesting against the residential tax which was an integral part for one of the themes of the film.

Who is she?
Why would she be there?
How did a woman survive under such corrupted and misogynistic environment alone?
How does an individual respond to a corrupt system?
Is justice possible?

All sorts of questions about her kept me awake at night. Not only was I fascinated by the history and their stories because of my cultural background, but also the belief that a personal story could become universal. Being a storyteller is part of human nature. We all have the desire to share our experiences with others.

I choose to work with an Australian screenwriter Matilda Dorman which led to the fictionalisation of What We’re Owed. A story that is set in an English-speaking country where the protagonist is trying to survive in an alien environment. This is not just a Chinese community story, it’s also part of Australia’s past as well.

Personally, I share some part of my overseas experience with the protagonist as we are both women trying to earn a place in a foreign land, regardless of the world's stereotype of young Asian women which is why her story has resonated with me deeply. As a filmmaker, I want to share positive stories that have influenced us and have an impact on our audiences. What We’re Owed is a story which I hold close to my heart. This film reflects an issue that is pertinent even in today's society, such as the equality on gender and race.

In addition, multiculturalism forms a significant part of our team dynamics. In order to tell the story from an objective point of view and deliver a historical film that is as realistic to history as possible we have formed a diverse creative team with both Australian and non-Australian cast and crew.

I hope this story of the early Chinese community in Australia can be carried on as a larger project and reach out to more audiences. Moreover, those untold stories deserve to be told. Through What We’re Owed, I want to encourage more multicultural female filmmakers to participate in the filmmaking industry both behind the camera and on-screen.