Cathy Yan is a Chinese-born American film director, screenwriter, and producer. Her films include the comedy-drama film Dead Pigs (2018) and Birds of Prey (2020), the eighth installment of the DC Extended Universe.

Cathy Yan
Alma mater
Years active2010–present
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese阎羽茜

Early life and educationEdit

Yan was born in China and raised in Northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C. She moved to Hong Kong when she was 14 years old.[1][2]

She received her BA from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 2008[3] and graduated with an MBA in general management from New York University Stern School of Business and an MFA in producing from New York University Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Film Program in 2016.[4][5][6][7]


Yan worked as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal[2] in New York, Hong Kong and Beijing before turning to filmmaking.[6]

After writing and directing several short films, Yan made her feature debut with Dead Pigs (2018). The film was inspired by the 2013 Huangpu River dead pigs incident, in which 16,000 dead pigs were found floating down the Huangpu River.[2] Funded by Chinese investors, Yan shot the dark comedy in Shanghai with a bilingual crew then completed the film in New York; "Sixth Generation" filmmaker Jia Zhangke executive produced.[2] Dead Pigs premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won a Special Jury Award for ensemble acting.[8]

In April 2018, Yan was selected to direct the Harley Quinn DC Extended Universe superhero film Birds of Prey, based on the comic of the same name. The film was released on February 7, 2020 with positive reviews.[9] Margot Robbie starred and co-produced and Christina Hodson wrote the script.[2] Yan was the second woman and the first Asian woman to direct a DC film (or any US superhero film).[10]

As of January 2020, Yan is working on the Sour Hearts film for A24.[11]


Year Title Credited as
Director Writer
2018 Dead Pigs Yes Yes
2020 Birds of Prey Yes No

Short films

Year Title Credited as
Director Writer
2013 Last Night Yes Yes
2016 Down River Yes Yes
According to My Mother Yes Yes


Year Title Notes
2010 Phishing Short films
2014 Dinosaur Rider
Of Tooth and Time
2015 Humpty
2016 Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang Documentary film;
Associate producer
2017 Groomed Short film


  1. ^ Canva, Michael (February 5, 2020). "Cathy Yan's rapid rise from journalist to 'Birds of Prey' director: 'I didn't think you could do this professionally'". Washington Post. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e Rife, Katie (April 17, 2018). "Meet Cathy Yan, the woman hired to direct DC's next Harley Quinn movie". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2018-05-03.
  3. ^ Karuppur, Abhiram (2018). "Feb. 13, 2018: Hamm '78 on Activism in Newark; Sigman '89 *98's New Spin on Interpretive Dance; and More". Princeton Alumni Weekly. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  4. ^ Teodorczuk, Tom (2018). "Sundance award-winning director Cathy Yan on shunning Hollywood for China with her debut movie 'Dead Pigs'". MarketWatch. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  5. ^ "Tisch at Sundance - 2018 Sundance - Premieres". Tisch School of the Arts. 2018. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Cathy Yan". Tisch School of the Arts. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  7. ^ "NYU MBA/MFA Dual Degree". Retrieved 2020-02-06.
  8. ^ Kiang, Jessica (25 January 2018). "Sundance Film Review: 'Dead Pigs'". Variety. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  9. ^ Couch, Aaron (September 24, 2018). "Margot Robbie's 'Birds of Prey' Gets 2020 Release Date confirmed". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
  10. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr (17 April 2018). "Cathy Yan Is Warner Bros' Choice To Direct Margot Robbie In Next Harley Quinn Film". Deadline. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  11. ^ Vary, Adam B. (2020-01-28). "'Birds of Prey' Director Cathy Yan Reveals the Crucial Advice Patty Jenkins Gave Her". Variety. Retrieved 2020-02-06.

External linksEdit