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STA international student pursues dream in China

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Updated: Mar 08, 2024

Rado Tsiadiana Nataniela is a Malagasy student at Shanghai Theater Academy. He is also a director whose films have been officially selected by several world-renowned movie festivals.

He fell in love with filmmaking since his childhood and learned it all by himself. He made his first film at the age of 13.

As a teen, an idea came out of his mind when he was watching movies together with his neighborhood friends. "Why don't we make one together?" he recalled.

Guided by his curiosity and supported by his friends, Nataniela took his first steps into filmmaking using his father's compact camera.

"I've been able to stick with my dream for 15 years because I love it," Nataniela said. "Everyone has a story and I want to share their stories through movies."

At the age of 17, Nataniela started getting noticed. He made a four-minute animation that got picked up for an annual film festival in Madagascar. It tells the story of a boy who plays basketball but cannot mark a point, and the reason is that the ball doesn't want to be thrown into the basket.

After graduating from high school, he wanted to learn the arts, but universities in his home country didn't offer the courses he needed. His parents both have master's degrees and they wanted Nataniela to continue his academic pursuit.

His father advised him to learn Chinese language at the Confucius Institute, so that hopefully one day he'll be able to get a scholarship to study in China.

Thanks to the Confucius Institute Scholarship and scholarship from Kunming University of Science and Technology(KMUST), his dream came true.

Nataniela performs in a theater at Shanghai Theater Academy.

During his studies, Nataniela went beyond mastering his craft and began to understand Chinese society as well.

His involvement in the Looking China · Youth Film Project, hosted by Beijing Normal University, allowed him to portray the vibrant lives of the elderly in Shanghai.

His short documentary, "Never Too Late", created in just 14 days, gained international recognition. It was officially selected and showcased at the Vancouver Chinese Film Festival and other film festivals in Spain, the US, and Madagascar.

Though not able to participate in the movie festivals on site, he talked through video at the film festival in Madagascar, feeling proud to represent both China and his home country to have his film selected.

Nataniela (middle) films a documentary.

The two main characters, Chen Chen and Liu Jiankui, embody the spirit of youth with their pursuit of love and freedom. Their lives, filled with modern fashion and Latin dancing, resonate with viewers across generations.

Nataniela wants to show that aging can be a beautiful journey. His documentary highlights this through scenes like a group of elderly people singing "Our Lives are Filled with Sunshine", a popular song from the 1980s.

In his eyes, these elderly folks mirror the broader fabric of Chinese society. They are dedicated people who have contributed to their nation and are now enjoying their golden years.

It is an invaluable experience for Nataniela to make the documentary with Sun Wenmiao, a Chinese film major student. They have cooperated closely and Nataniela has learnt much, especially about editing, from her.

He always immerses himself in the vibrant Chinese culture during his time in China. Before moving to Shanghai, he studied teaching Chinese as a foreign language at KMUST. There he encountered the cultures of ethnic minorities. He even participated in a documentary project to explore the culture of Blang, one of the ethnic groups in China. Embracing both the ethnic culture in Yunnan and international culture in Shanghai, he said he likes all kinds of culture.

Committed to his passion for filmmaking, Nataniela has decided to remain in China after his graduation. Along this journey, he has not only found friends but also collaborators who share his vision.

He aims to deepen these partnerships in his future projects. Moving forward, Nataniela is also focused on securing additional financial backing to enable the creation of more ambitious, large-scale works.