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Mother Tongue: How Language Intersects with Identity and Mental Health

Voices With Impact 2021: A week of films, conversation, and exploration related to mental health within Black and immigrant communities.

About this event

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his mother language that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela


Language, the words they use, and the meanings they attach to them shape their worldviews. They influence their feelings, attitudes and beliefs. With immigration, the concept of a mother language is conceived. A mother tongue is not only a means of communication, but an entity that connects the to family, identity, and culture. It contains echoes of their childhood, and is the carrier of history, traditions, customs, folklore and wisdom from one generation to another. Differences in languages and cultures, and issues of stigma, racism and discrimination have a range of mental health implications on the ways that people view health, illness, and healing. In this session, filmmakers Ziyao Liu, Hao Zhou, and Adán Ávalos explore the intersection of language, identity, and mental health.

Note: This session has been designed to honor and center the full expression of mental health as experienced by first- and second-generation immigrants. Allies are welcome. Anything coming up in the session that decentralizes first and second generation immigrants will be compassionately redirected.


Ziyao Liu, “Could Have, Should Have”

Ziyao Liu is a Chinese writer/director/editor based in Los Angeles. She is an MFA candidate at UCLA directing program. She cares deeply about groups of people and subcultures that are not often seen on screen in both Chinese and American society. She creates films of a personal nature to generate empathy and understanding in people who are otherwise very different. She received her B.A. in film from University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she developed a midwestern work ethic.

Hao Zhou, “Frozen Out”

Hao Zhou is a filmmaker and photographer from Nanchuan, China. Across mediums, Hao develops work with experimental tendencies, often centering LGBTQ+ characters and themes. His notable creative experiences include making two feature films, writing for Douban.com, and taking part in programs such as Cannes’ Cinéfondation Résidence, Xining FIRST, and Talents Tokyo. Hao’s work has been screened at numerous festivals, with awards or nominations at the Berlinale, Hong Kong, Black Movie, Nara, Queer Lisboa, China Independent, and others.

Adàn Àvalos, “Rompiendo Olas/Breaking Waves”

Adán Ávalos is a filmmaker and scholar who believes in exploring both theory and practice of art, directing his own documentaries and art installations. As one of eleven children from a Mexican migrant labor family, Adán has focused his artistic and scholarly career on paying tribute to the lives and experiences within migrant communities.

Rosie Pidcock

Rosie is an actor and filmmaker based on Unceded Coast Salish Territories. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of British Columbia, and a Diploma in Acting from Vancouver Film School. She produced, directed and starred in the webseries “Thank You For Ghosting” and the short film “Chime Me Again”. She recently starred in Spectral Theatre’s production of “counterFACTUAL” at the Vancouver Fringe Festival 2020, and “Attachments” at Rumble Theatre’s Tremors Festival 2020. She is currently post-producing the The Fetishization of One Victor Mohdee, a short film that explores contemporary Black male identity and sexual fetishization through the lens of a relationship.


Half-Chinese and fluent in Mandarin, Rosie’s dream is to shoot and star in a feature film in China’s beautiful Southwestern Province of Yunnan. A passionate environmentalist, Rosie also volunteers her time with the youth non-profit Student Energy where she serves as both Board Secretary and a Member of the Intersectional Equity Committee. Rosie is thrilled to be part of Voices With Impact 2021 with her short film Esther & Sai, a tender portrait of two immigrant women who meet at a Canadian nursing school in 1976. Esther & Sai is based on the real life story and mental health struggles of Rosie’s Mother Sai and Sai’s best friend Esther.

For more information about Voices With Impact 2021, please visit Art With Impact.

Upcoming Dates

  • Wednesday, June 23, 2021, 4:00 - 5:30 pm