Inspirare takes us into the life and underwater world of Jessea Lu, the first Chinese female freediving champion. In intimate, cinéma vérité-style, we travel with Jessea on her unwavering journey to become a world champion. An accomplished pharmaceutical advisor by day, and top freediver during her free time, Jessea unflinchingly commits herself to everything she does. Two years ago, Jessea’s life was nearly cut short when she blacked out 20 meters underwater during her last world-record attempt: a dive of 93 meters. She was lifeless for seven minutes. After coming face-to-face with death, instead of quitting, Jessea decides to continue her training––preparing and sharpening her skills with the rigor of the world’s most preeminent competitors. In 2020, we follow Jessea’s return to the world freediving stage as she emerges with a bigger, more dangerous goal: breaking the current world record in the same contest she nearly died just two short years ago. Will Jessea reemerge from the abyssal depths with the gold medal this time around?
Kang Yuqi is a documentary director. She earned an MFA in film at the School of Visual Arts in NYC and awarded the Paula Rhodes Memorial Award. Her first feature A Little Wisdom(2017) was awarded the Best Canadian Feature at the HOT DOCS Film Festival, the Grand Jury Award at DOC NYC, Best Camera at Golden Tree Film Festival and Best Feature Film at Nepal International Film Festival. She was selected for the Talent Lab for TIFF 2018 and one of the five breakthrough directors by the Director Guild of Canada. In 2019, she was named the 40 under 40 by DOC NYC.
On the surface, this is an extreme sports story about a female athlete, but beneath the surface, Jessea’s story connects to each and every woman who strives for success and independence in the world today. Our subject, Jessea Lu, cinematographer, Cecile Zhang, producer, Dana Kalmey, and I combine to create a passionate group of young women who believe in the power of perseverance to overcome obstacles and failures, to break through barriers, and to inspire. This topic is timely and relevant because: Jessea is embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime journey this year; as a young, female Asian filmmaker at the early stages of my career, I know that females are still being undermined in many fields and professions––including sports; before the “Time’s Up” movement, in the filmmaking world, only about 31% of women had speaking roles in TV and film; even today, there are very few cinematic stories that portray a promising, minority heroine that are also created by minority women. Through my experience and lens, I aim to address these topics and, most importantly, tell a complex story of a strong-willed Chinese woman––a story of female athletic prowess and courage based solely on a determined woman’s inner strength.