Yu Sun uses needle and thread to animate the story of a young girl and her absent father

With a message to “spend more time with the people you love”, the film uses thread to represent the complex and often tangled nature of relationships.

20 October 2022


Gaining inspiration from renowned artists can come in many forms. Sometimes, rather than being visually inspired by their work, emerging creatives can instead find themselves inspired by their words and the thinking behind their practices. It was a quote from the renowned Louise Bourgeois that inspired the animator Yu Sun’s inventive use of needle and thread in her most recent short film, Stay. “The needle is used to repair damage," she says. "It’s a claim to forgiveness.”

Spanning a short but sweet five minutes, Stay follows a young girl and her father. The father becomes increasingly absent after taking work-related phone calls, rather than spending time with his young child and partner. The story is directly related to Yu’s own experience. She says, “when I was studying in the UK, I missed my parents a lot, which also made me reconsider the bond between us.”

But, when beginning to approach the story – which Yu identifies as “very straightforward” – she was struggling to find a simple yet interesting way to highlight the personal complexity of familial relationships and how they change or break over time. It was upon hearing Bourgeois' quote, and realising how the project was a form of self-therapy, that she realised thread proved both a unique and striking material to use. Testing a number of different materials, Yu ended up using tracing paper. She explains: “the blurred line and semi-transparent effect matched the vague childhood memory of my father.”

Born and raised in China, Yu now lives in the UK after moving for her studies. Growing up, she describes being “addicted” to Anime; the adventures and the stories of love and friendship. It was this obsession that led her to fill her textbooks with doodles. Not interacting with animation at undergraduate level, it was only after a number of years working in the Chinese animation industry that Yu decided to study the medium in depth, taking on an MA course at London College of Communication.

Now complete and making the film festival run, Yu tells us that she’s extremely proud of the film for a number of reasons. Firstly, the film brings together of such a brilliant selection of creatives: the music composer Mickenson Nemorin, sound designer Zoltán Kadnár, sewing assistants Yunnuo Liu, Ruozhang Liao, Urte Karvelyte, Despina Markaki and Xinya Shi. Moreover, by using a needle and thread to make the animation – a medium already known for its time-consuming nature – the project was no mean-feat. Yu is proud of sticking with it, and enjoyed the process throughout the entirety. But, perhaps the element she is most proud of is having the confidence to share her story, something that really hit home after a screening of the film. “I was completely immersed in sharing my story, not caring much about the outside voices or how other people would respond to it,” she details. “But since the film has been screened at many film festivals, I heard the odd person in the audience crying, which I didn’t expect at all.” Finally, Yu wants the film to make people reconsider their closest relationships. “I hope people will value the importance of company more between family, friends and lovers after they finish the film, especially in this fast-paced society,” she ends.

GalleryYu Sun: Stay (Copyright © Yu Sun, 2022)

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Yu Sun: Stay (Copyright © Yu Sun, 2022)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English Literature and History, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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