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Award-Winning Film, The Legend in My Heart, Now Online

By Wendy Lee, IWP ICRU Fellow

Student laughing at Jinan University in Guangzhou, China.

The Legend in My Heart, a film following the International Writing Program's 2014 Reading Tour to China, was the recipient of several awards from the 13th annual Wild Rose Film Festival, including Best International Documentary Feature.

The recently-premiered film stars four distinguished American artists ­— Stephen Kuusisto, Michelle Pearson, and University of Iowa Professors David Gompper and Christopher Merrill­ — as they travel through Guangzhou, China, engaging in workshops, lectures, and performances. Transcending the barriers of self-limitations, Kuusisto, a professor at Syracuse University and author of the critically-acclaimed memoir Planet of the Blind, led a poetry workshop at the Guangzhou English Training Centre for the Handicapped (GETCH) in which he shared his own story of living with a disability. Reflecting on the delegation's time at GETCH, director of the film and University of Iowa alumna Kaitlyn Busbee said, “this whole experience was incredibly humbling. It revealed so much to be about the human spirit. I realized through this experience that the arts give us a point of entry to get to the essence of what makes us human and what we are supposed to do here.”

The tour culminated in a two-day workshop where people from all walks of life congregated at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou to channel their free spirit in the form of dance moves, musical compositions, voices singing in unison, or penned thoughts revealed through poetry. As Kuusisto added in the film, this “cross-pollination of different art forms” was an avenue for participants to “bring different gifts to the table.”

From large-scale performances to the simple act of sharing a meal, the film witnesses individuals openly engaging in cultural exchange through a multitude of activities, exemplifying how shared appreciation of the arts can transcend geographical borders. Pearson, a seasoned dancer and master teacher at Black Box Dance Theater, said in the film that “when people allow themselves to move, that’s when incredible things happen."

Merrill, director of the International Writing Program, expressed that “creativity is at the heart of cultural exchange, which can and should be available to people from all walks of life, and this film brilliantly captures some of the ways in which the arts can cut through all the complications of politics.”

Watch the film in its entirety on the IWP Media Gallery.

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