Livi Zheng: Filmmaker and Martial Artist Championing Representation

R7EHW9 BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 8: Livi Zheng, at Kore Asian Media's 17th Annual Unforgettable Gala at the Beverly Hilton on December 8, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. Credit: Faye Sadou / MediaPunch

Nine years ago today, Brush With Danger was released in theaters.  The extraordinary Livi Zheng wrote, directed, co-produced, and starred in the film!

Livi Zheng is an Indonesian filmmaker whose entrance into the film industry was both unconventional and early. At 15, she was a stuntwoman. She came to the US to attend the University of Washington, where she majored in economics (no doubt influencing her future as a producer). During her college years, Livi became a national martial arts champion, earning 26 medals in the US, including one at the US open. She then got a masters degree in film at the University of Southern California. 

With an already impressive career in both film and martial arts under her belt by the time she finished her masters, Livi combined both of these skills to create her first feature film: Brush With Danger (2014). At just 23, she wrote, directed and co-produced this action film. She also utilized her incredible martial arts skills to star in the film alongside her brother Ken, also a talented martial artist. The film is about two immigrant siblings who are struggling to make ends meet in Seattle, when they unwittingly become embroiled in a dangerous criminal underworld.

Brush With Danger solidified Livi as a talented and unique new voice in film. The film was praised by audiences for its enthralling blend of cinematic and martial arts. Not to mention, the sibling bond at the core of the film, portrayed by real-life siblings, captured the hearts of viewers. After seeing the film back in 2014, FF2 Media Editor-in-Chief Jan Lisa Huttner said, “Brush with Danger is filled with youthful energy and enthusiasm, and one day Livi Zheng might just be a filmmaker of renown.”

Livi’s next film, which she also produced and directed, was Bali: Beats of Paradise. This film is a documentary which showcases the collaboration between Grammy-winning musician Judith Hill and renowned Indonesian composer Nyoman Wenten, as they fuse traditional Balinese music and dance with contemporary Western influences. Bali: Beats of Paradise celebrates the world of Indonesian culture, while also acting as a cultural bridge. As FF2 contributor Bea Viri aptly puts it, “Seeing how traditional practices can be modernized and more accessible for younger generations, and to have people being unapologetically Southeast Asian— those are the scenes that are most worth it.”

Livi’s most recent endeavor is another action film, co-written by and starring her brother Ken again. In Insight (2021), Ken plays Jian, a clairvoyant counter-terrorist agent with skills in martial arts. Jian teams up with the reluctant Los Angelos police to investigate his brother’s death (allegedly a suicide), and fights off a high-tech criminal looking to exploit his clairvoyance. Insight is an exciting action film created by a true expert in fighting.

Livi’s films are exciting to watch, not only because they’re well-made, but also because they are a testament to the power of Livi’s strong and unique voice as an artist. Through her films, Livi fights for Indonesian representation as powerfully as she fights enemies on-screen. 

© Julia Lasker (9/19/2023) FF2 Media


Read Jan Lisa Huttner’s review of Brush With Danger here.

Read Beatrice Viri’s review of Bali: Beats of Paradise here.

Learn more about Livi Zheng here.

Watch Brush With Danger here.

Watch Bali: Beats of Paradise here.

Watch Insight here.


Featured photo: Livi Zheng, at Kore Asian Media’s 17th Annual Unforgettable Gala at the Beverly Hilton on December 8, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. Photo Credit: Faye Sadou / MediaPunch Inc / Alamy Stock Photo. Image ID: R7EHW9

Tags: action filmmaker, Bali: Beats of Paradise, Brush With Danger, female martial artist, Insight, Ken Zheng, Livi Zheng

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As an associate for FF2 Media, Julia writes reviews and features for films made by women. She is currently a senior at Barnard College studying Psychology. Outside of FF2, her interests include acting, creative writing, thrift shopping, crafting, and making and eating baked goods. Julia has been at FF2 for almost 4 years, and loves the company and its mission dearly.
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