Inspired by AAPI YouTube pioneers, MIT grad produces doc about the need for water wells in Malawi

Inspired by AAPI YouTube pioneers, MIT grad produces doc about the need for water wells in Malawi
Jiselle Lee
October 27, 2021
Inspired by the rise of Asian Americans in the film industry, Vick Liu decided to produce his own documentary in support of a nonprofit.
Documentary: Liu, a 23-year-old Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) finance graduate, first pitched the idea of making a short documentary to Water Wells for Africa (WWFA) in 2019.
  • He hopes his documentary, “Water is Life,” will help raise awareness about how more people die from unsafe water than from all forms of violence. ​
  • “Water is Life” is about how a water well can change the lives of young women in Malawi like Ruthnut who wants to become a nurse, but is unable to attend school because she has to walk up to three hours a day to fetch water for their families.
  • While the story is about the many benefits of clean, accessible water in Malawi, it’s also a more personal story about the effect of increased Asian representation in Hollywood.
  • Growing up, he loved watching Asian American content creators on YouTube, such as Wong Fu Productions, Jason Chen and Cathy Nguyen. Movies like “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “The Farewell” gave Liu the motivation to create his own film.
  • “Growing up, it was hard to find people who looked like me on the screen,” he told NextShark. “It’s so inspiring to see this beginning to change especially with actors like Simu Liu.”
  • Liu pitched the documentary to WWFA, wrote the script and edited the nine-minute video.
  • He said he hopes to continue producing documentaries about important stories people may not know about.
  • “I think that’s one of the beauties of this space,” Liu said. “As we get more and more representation in Hollywood, we come from a very different set of stories and different values, and I think that just opens up an entirely new area of stories.”

Cause: WWFA is a nonprofit organization that has been installing water wells in Africa since 1996. They have installed over 300 wells, bringing clean, accessible water to over 250,000 people in rural African communities. Each water well costs an average of $8,000 to install and can last over two decades, serving thousands of people over its lifetime.
  • Liu has volunteered his free time to help fundraise for WWFA for two years.
  • He first launched a GoFundMe page to fundraise for another WWFA water well.
  • After launching the documentary, he created another GoFundMe page to fundraise for a water well to be installed in Malawi. He has raised just over $1,500 of his $8,000 goal since he launched the page on Sept. 18.
Liu has a history of finding innovative ways to help others, starting with TravlerPack, a sleeping bag he designed to help keep refugees warm. Through his GoFundMe campaign and MIT’s crowdfunding website, Liu raised over $53,000 to produce and distribute more than 1,300 TravlerPacks to refugees in Idlib, Syria and Beqaa Valley, Lebanon.
Photos courtesy of Vick Liu
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