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Above the Drowning Sea: Film Screening and Discussion

Wednesday, November 8, 2017 from 5:00 PM to 7:45 PM (EST)

Above the Drowning Sea: Film Screening and Discussion

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Event Details

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts
3 Spruce Street, New York, NY


5:00 to 5:30pm   Reception

5:30 to 7:15pm   Documentary Screening

7:15 to 7:45pm   Q&A with René Balcer and Carolyn Hsu-Balcer


Above the Drowning Sea tells the story of the dramatic escape of European Jews from Nazi-controlled Europe to Shanghai on the eve of World War II. As Hitler’s forces sought to expel the Jews from Europe, the refugees desperately looked for a way out from what would become the Holocaust. Many countries denied access to them, until a door opened on the eastern coast of far-away China, in Shanghai, an open city itself in chaos from foreign invasion and civil war. But getting there required a “golden” document to get out of Nazi Europe—a visa from China. Above the Drowning Sea recounts the courageous intervention of Ho Feng Shan, the Chinese Consul in Vienna, who defied his own government and braved the Gestapo to issue visas to the refugees. The Jewish refugees and the Chinese residents of Shanghai who helped them survive recount their experiences, terrors, and deprivations, as well as the remarkable friendships forged across cultures that survive to this day.


Documentary Website:


René Balcer, Writer-Director

René Balcer is well known as the showrunner, head writer, and executive producer of the iconic television series Law & Order, and as the cocreator and showrunner of its hit spin-off series Law & Order Criminal Intent. In addition, he created the international hit series Jo starring Jean Reno. He has received an Emmy, a Peabody Award, a Writers Guild of America Award, and four Edgar Awards for his television work. Balcer has also written and produced award-winning documentaries on art and China. Earlier in his career, he was a front-line cameraman during the 1973 Yom Kippur War and a journalist in Montréal.

His writing on social issues has been recognized with awards from Planned Parenthood, Alliance for Justice, the American Bar Association, and other organizations. Balcer has lectured widely about writing, art, and the duties of artists in free societies, notably at Harvard University, Columbia University, New York University, University of Pennsylvania, the Sorbonne (Paris), the Central Academy of Fine Art (Beijing), and the Journalists Club (Moscow).


Carolyn Hsu-Balcer, Co-Executive Producer

Carolyn Hsu-Balcer is a designer, philanthropist, and art collector based in Los Angeles and New York. She is a past trustee of the China Institute in New York, an organization founded in 1926 by her great grand-uncle, the educator Kuo Ping Wen. She has organized seminars on Education in China, notably at Columbia Teachers College in 2014. She also has organized and supported educational seminars and scholarships at Shanghai Finance and Economics University, Southeast Nanjing University, and its Taiwan offshoot Central University. Her interest in cross-cultural exchanges has led her to organize ground-breaking exhibitions of Chinese art including “Xu Bing Tobacco Project Virginia” (2011, VMFA), “Light Before Dawn” (2013, Asia Society Hong Kong Center), “Blooming in the Shadows” (2011, China Institute, NY), “Ming Cho Lee: A Retrospective” (2011, Ningbo Museum), and “Oil and Water: Re-Interpreting Ink” (2014, MOCA, NY).

Hsu-Balcer has produced award-winning documentaries on Chinese art, including The No Name Painting Association and Xu Bing Tobacco Project Virginia. In publishing, she has sponsored the publication of a thirteen-volume catalogue of the works of the Wuming group of Chinese artists, and the publication of Ai Wei Wei: New York Photographs 1983–1993.

Hsu-Balcer is currently a member of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Foundation Board of Directors, a member of the Board of Overseers at the MFA Boston, and an honorary trustee of the Ningbo Museum (China). As a trustee of the Ningbo Museum, Hsu-Balcer has forged ties with U.S. art and cultural institutions to bring curatorial training to the Ningbo Museum. Hsu-Balcer and her husband have assembled important collections of Chinese contemporary art, Japanese Shin-Hanga, and Inuit art. Works from the collections have been shown in museums around the world, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; Aldrich Museum; Wellin Museum; Asia Society Hong Kong Center; and the Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

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When & Where

Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts
3 Spruce Street
New York, NY 10038

Wednesday, November 8, 2017 from 5:00 PM to 7:45 PM (EST)

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About the Confucius Institute at Pace University

Located at the financial, civic, and cultural center of Manhattan, The Confucius Institute at Pace University is the first university-based institute of its kind in New York City. Founded in partnership with Nanjing Normal University and China’s Phoenix Publishing and Media Group, Pace’s Confucius Institute integrates pedagogical, scholarly, and professional expertise to promote the learning of Chinese language and culture and to facilitate cross-cultural understanding between people in the United States and China.

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