Breaking Boundaries: Andy Yi Li’s ‘After Sunset, Dawn Arrives’ – A Riveting Tale of Love and Self-Discovery

Andy Yi Li

Movie Poster "After Sunset, Dawn Arrives

Movie Poster “After Sunset, Dawn Arrives

Film Scene: Wan stands before his wife Fang's shrine, seeking her silent approval for his first visit to the Ballroom

Film Scene: Wan stands before his wife Fang’s shrine, seeking her silent approval for his first visit to the Ballroom

‘As a director, I’ve noted the scarcity of stories about Chinese gay men in cinema, as well as a general lack of films that delicately portray the nuanced emotions of men”

— Andy Yi Li

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES, January 23, 2024 / — The 2022 award-winning short film After Sunset, Dawn Arrives brought to audiences a story of the self-discovery and realization of an old gay man. The unconventional storyline stood out for its daring approach that few dare to challenge and even fewer manage to deliver exceptionally well. The film’s production was inspired by a personal tragedy experienced by director Andy Yi Li. Li has consistently been driven to shed light on stories that have a profound social impact, intended to improve the lives of marginalized and discriminated individuals.

Despite the progress made in the 21st century for the marginalized through revolutionary movements, much still needs to be done. The static conventional settings of societies have not yet allowed for the acceptance of sexualities and gender fluidity on a larger scale. Though one might approve of the notion, integrated behavior is seldom seen, especially in states that heavily value the historically predominant culture and society. Li skillfully explores the themes of self-acceptance and grief within the setting of a seemingly ordinary man’s life story.

The film received tremendous glory at the reputable Athens International Film + Video Festival, emerging victorious out of more than 2000 entries from around the world. This extraordinary accomplishment demonstrates how unique Li’s storytelling abilities are. The festival, established in 1973, is in its 50th successful year, which explains the importance it has today and its rich and impressive legacy. Throughout its history, it has remained a reliable platform for recognizing the finest works of international cinema and highlighting the distinctive accomplishments of directors. The festival’s recognition of the film underscores its notable impact and dedication to providing a voice for underrepresented communities. The director is overwhelmed with gratitude and sees this recognition as a testament to her exceptional talent and limitless devotion.

Audiences love it so much because so many out there resonate with it! It was the common line of review among the critics when the film first came out. The lack of depth, layers, and a mix of emotions that run through a person at the receiving end of discrimination and oppression in the content being produced is what bothered the director most. After Sunset, Dawn Arrives, the director dared to fill the void that presents the often-not-spoken gentle trait of men. This story embarks on a journey of self-acceptance and casts a light on those silenced for too long,’ added the award-winning director. The film’s story is set in an underground ballroom in Lai Lai, which directly references the historical Lai Lai Ballroom in Shanghai from the 2000s. The safe haven for the otherwise openly despised faction of society, Wan, the main character in the film, accidentally sets his eyes on the young, energetic dancer Ken. Destiny or just a coincidental meeting? Will Wan find his long-lost search for love in Ken? Watch the film to find out!

The search for the right fit for the Wan character was arduous and tedious for the crew. As Li recalled in one of her interviews, ‘Casting for the role of Wan posed the greatest challenge in our production. We needed an actor who was not only fluent in Mandarin and looked the part of a man in his sixties but also one willing to engage in the film’s sensitive scenes.’ The specific age group and language requirement necessitated extensive auditions within a tight schedule and budget limitations. The dedication and commitment of filmmakers like Li, who work with limited budgets, raise a question about the state of commercial filmmaking. Despite spending significant amounts of money on production, the industry has declined. The film’s positive reception is a refreshing indication of the evolving preferences of the audience when it comes to content.

Among other notable honors the film has qualified for the Oscars 2024 and has been a roaring success at every film festival it has been submitted to. It is competing for the 2024 Academy Awards for Best Live Action Short Film. The film was showcased at biggest talent agencies like CAA (Creative Artists Agency) and WME (William Morris Endeavor). Generating a lot of industry buzz. The Thomas Edison Film Festival 2023 honored the director, Li, as the Director’s Choice Award winner. The film was showered with all praise at the Poppy Jasper International Film Festival 2023 Chinese Filmmaker Showcase, where Li shined again, winning Best Director-Short Film. After Sunset, Dawn Arrives was the reigning winner at the 2023 First Look Film Festival and Fargo-Moorhead LGBT Film Festival 2023 for Best Drama and Audience Award, respectively, among many others. Readers can view the complete list of awards at After Sunset, Dawn Arrives—Awards and Nominations. Li has been overwhelmed with the mega reception that the film received and finds it to be the most rewarding aspect of the project. The director, who was present at some of the shows at the cinema, was elated to see older gay men in an emotional rush while watching the film. As a sign of colossal appreciation, the expressions, sighs of relief, and sparkles in the eyes uplifted Li’s motivation to continue working likewise. ‘I have seen the faces of older gay men in the audience, their eyes sparkling with nostalgia, recognition, and perhaps relief, as they see their stories reflected with dignity on the big screen. It is a powerful affirmation of the film’s reach and its ability to touch lives deeply and diversely,’.

The director, who started working at 16, has come a long way and is determined to reach the pinnacle of making films with the legendary names of the entertainment industry. She is dedicated to her craft, currently working on a documentary feature, One More Dance, and developing her debut feature film, Auntie Wu. Her versatility and meaningful presence in the industry is evident.

To learn more about her professional career, please visit Andy Yi Li IMDb. Read more about the film at After Sunset, Dawn Arrives (Short 2022) IMDb. The film is now streaming on Dekkoo and Amazon Prime Video.



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