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  • Writer's pictureTaylor Armstead

Culture Spotlight Featuring Meng Ren

A DJ of conscious grooves since 2017, Meng Ren is deeply immersed in the underground music scene in China. After winning the Presser Graduate Music Award during her PhD studies at University of North Texas, she rented a second-hand Panasonic and headed back home, documenting the dreams and struggles of those around her. Meng is a first-time filmmaker, learning the arts from her creative producer Husain Amer by doing it all with her heart and soul.

Tell us about your experience at the Hip Hop Film Festival. The Hip Hop Film Festival is well-curated from beginning to end. Communications were easy and timely, the direction for submitting relevant materials was clear, and most of all, it feels like a real festival that celebrates culture, diversity, and people's voices. I also want to give props to the online section for its rich and in-depth content.

Why are “stories from the culture” worthy of a platform? As an anthropologist, insider's (emic) views are regarded as an extremely important channel to gain insights of a culture. "Stories From the Culture" takes into account the voices from those who originate from the culture and give these people an opportunity to engage in something akin to auto-ethnography, the analysis of the lived experience of the author. This platform allows for a polyphonic, dialogic discourse about the culture from the "inside out."

Why do you think the Harlem Film House and Hip Hop Film Festival are important? The Harlem Film House and the Hip Hop Film Festival are a beacon of light! There is no other place in the world that truly keeps, cares for, and celebrates one of the most incredible music-cultures in history. Being located in the root of the culture, this festival brings home the many routes this culture has reached and the fruit it gives birth to worldwide. It is because of this festival that I was able to showcase what Chinese youths are up to; how they are living Hip Hop for a cause.

What projects are you working on now? I am completing my Ph.D. dissertation on Chinese Hip Hop at the University of North Texas. Moreover, having my first film festival experience with HHFF had really sparked my confidence in filmmaking. I am currently planning on a new documentary about a disabled reggae musician based in Dallas.

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