Discussions with Feng Yan, Shabnam Virmani, Yu Lik-wai,
Li Hong, Wang Jian-wei, Makin Fung
Moderated by Fujioka Asako
Time flies. It's already two years since our New Asian Currents program at the YIDFF '97 presented forty-one film and video works from all around Asia. Thirty-one filmmakers participated in the program, and each was asked to attend a question and answer discussion session with me and the audience after their screenings.
It's a pleasure to share excerpts from these festival discussions with you here at Documentary Box. The six filmmakers whose sessions are transcribed in these pages are all between the ages of thirty-one to forty-one. Since the 1997 film festival, two have given birth to babies, and one has gotten married (as far as I know). They are precisely at the age of having to face various shifts in their personal lives, just as their filmmaking careers are taking off.
At the same time, these two, end-of-the-century years from 1997 to 1999 have brought dizzying changes in the world order in which the filmmakers live, particularly Asia. The economic crisis and the IMF bailout in Thailand and Korea, the nuclear weapons race between Pakistan and India, China's rapid transition to a market economy, general elections in Indonesia following the fall of Suharto, dialogue and confrontation on the Korean peninsula, peace negotiations in the Middle East.
This article will perhaps provide you with an insight on the Asian documentarists of today, living in such a turbulent age.
Again, this article comprises only one small part of the discussions that took place over the course of seven days. Only six filmmakers out of 31 are represented, and moreover space limitation allows transcription of only a part of each session. To those of you who want more, hope to see you at New Asian Currents '99!!
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the excellent interpreters and translators, as well as friends of the YIDFF, who have continuously supported us over the years. October is closing in, we'll be in touch again soon!!
YIDFF New Asian Currents Coordinator
An avid participant of the YIDFF since 1993, Feng Yan is a Chinese national who studied Agricultural Economics at Kyoto University and is fluent in Japanese. Every night at Yamagata found her deep in passionate debate about documentary filmmaking. In 1996, we heard she had translated Harvesting Film ("Eiga o toru"), a collection of Japanese director Ogawa Shinsuke's public speeches, into Chinese, and published it in Taiwan. It was indeed a labor of love and deep respect for Ogawa's works.
Already in 1994, she began filming in rural areas of China with her compact video camera, and joined Asia Press, a Tokyo-based collective of freelance video journalists from around Asia. Ever since, she has been active in documenting poverty and education problems that are still rampant in Chinese villages. Her first feature-length documentary, Dreams of Changjiang, closely follows the lives of villagers forced to relocate because of the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. She succeeds in expressing the tenacity and vitality of the Chinese people in the face of an overwhelming fate.
Feng Yan is now based in Tianjing, raising a baby born six months after the YIDFF '97 while planning her next documentary.
Feng Yan: In the past, Chinese farmers were exploited by politicians eager to strengthen ideologies. Nobody expressed any interest in what farmers actually thought, what they ate for their subsistence, how they led their daily existence. It was considered natural for the Chinese agrarian people to be sacrificed for others.
That's why in making this film, I was determined not to present, for example, a political, environmental, or human rights perspective. I filmed solely with the intent of looking at the people's lives, to observe them carefully. I wanted to see what choices they would make when they were faced with this enormous thing of having to leave their generations-old family land. What did they base their choices on? I hoped, through filming their daily lives, to capture the parameters they worked with.
But when it came to actually filming, I found that I had been unconsciously looking through a filter. I found that a part of me expected the farmers to weep dramatically or make a row when leaving their land. I must admit, when that did not occur, I could not hide my disappointment.
On the other hand, as I spent more time with the villagers, I gradually found myself fascinated by their very loveable nature. Each of them make various decisions according to their own criteria. No doubt the yardstick is most often a financial one, but I think we should accept that all people, living anywhere, anytime, are confined to a framework provided by the era, historical background, and general social setting.
It is impossible to judge the Chinese farmers with a preconceived standard. The only thing we can do is observe, to patiently and carefully continue watching. Although it is easy to sympathize or feel pity for the farmers, that's not it: we should be casting our eyes further down the line.
The farmers themselves, I believe, should similarly turn their eyes to the existence of others, too. This film is a record of my gaze. It chronicles the process I went through in learning to know the Chinese farmers.
Audience A: Isn't this film somewhat of a critique of the government?
Feng Yan: I am afraid that foreigners may watch this film and feel it criticizes the government. Japan and other foreign countries uphold a freedom that is quite different from the Chinese social environment. That's why they are, what should I say . . . too sensitive about human rights issues or social censure. I myself had no intention to "criticize." It may be that, without me intending it to be so, the finished film embodies something. But in reality, it's true that the Chinese, including me, are not so sensitive to those topics. Perhaps the situation has become so natural, that we're kind of desensitized. But anyway, those comments are often heard at film screenings overseas.
All human beings live in a political environment. Japan has political problems, too. It's exactly the same situation for China. Yet all problems in China are labeled political-this is something that doesn't make sense to me. Perhaps there are parts of this film that are politically sensitive. For example, the issue of the "one-child policy" and so forth. Of course there are delicate issues like that. But it is a fact that we are living our lives in this kind of world. This is the environment of our everyday lives. We don't regard our daily lives as enveloped in politics and all these political problems. Nevertheless, when our films are shown overseas, foreigners tend to consider all Chinese issues to be overtly political. Chinese people living in the country don't necessarily feel the same way.
Audience B: You say you had no political intention, yet you did express your message through the selection of sequences and choice of characters, didn't you?
Feng Yan: About choosing characters and sequences, I am aware of my immaturity as a documentarist, in that I've always chosen characters whom I have become interested in, whom I have felt affinity towards. Naturally there is an element of destiny, where I would become interested in someone and put much effort into getting closer, and eventually they opened their hearts to me. But it was not a conscious decision to select a character. In my film, I simply included people I became fond of.
I actually have more than a hundred hours of raw footage, so it would have been easy to edit it in a politically motivated way or whatever. When you live in the village and spend a lot of time with the villagers, they would talk about anything with you. They would criticize the government while the camera is running. But that is not the entirety of their lives. That's why I felt I should not edit the film like that. I only included people whose lifestyle I could empathize with. That's why this became a record of my journey to discovery.
Women's rights activist Shabnam Virmani responds to arguments directly. Standing tall and regal, she championed her position advocating human rights and women's issues in India during a frank and open Q&A session after the screening of To Be Alive!
From Ahmedabad, Gujarat, in northwest India, Shabnam attended the YIDFF with her husband and a baby to be born three months later, in January 1998. Back home, she organizes a video production collective which prides itself of being part of a broad network of activist groups and NGOs around India. To Be Alive! tells the stories of three women social activists who, in the face of discrimination, triumph over personal loss and tragedy to empower themselves and other women in need.
Shabnam Virmani: Watching this film again with an international audience suddenly made me realize how locally specific it is. This film was not really designed for an international festival. This film was specifically made as a mobilization tool, a motivation tool, a training tool, for gender sensitization, to raise the issue of gender politics among village and activist groups around India. Around a thousand video cassettes are being shown across India by women's and social activist groups to raise such issues among women and other audiences. So many of the references are very context specific and I have to apologize for that.
Audience A: I am a woman from Iran, where women stand up for their rights and are strong. Nevertheless, I've been hurt by words if not by physical blows. I think many women from Asia, including Japanese women, can understand this film, and feel proud to be a woman.
Audience B: Do you belong to any political party?
Shabnam Virmani: No. Did you feel that I did?
Audience B: It's just an impression, because I come from a former communist country, Mongolia. The film reminded me of communist or socialist propaganda, but excuse me if my impressions were wrong. In my country, there was a lot of propaganda, and it was a part of our education. In your case, it's real life, but in someway its reference to class is something like political propaganda.
Shabnam Virmani: Are you using the term "propaganda" in a negative or pejorative sense? The only thing this film holds as its strong belief is women's equality. There is no women's political party as yet in India-I wish there were. Could you expand on your use of the word "propagandist"? Does it mean it suppresses an opposite viewpoint?
Audience B: Perhaps it's because this film's motivation is to educate young women. I spent a long time in the Soviet Union, where the propaganda was also very didactic. But I don't mean to talk about your film in a negative sense. It just reminded me of my old days.
Audience C: I appreciate the director's efforts in making such a film, but I have some questions. The construction of the film is based around strict interviews of three activists. The commentary part takes a less important role. In between the strict interviews where the activists tell their self-histories, instead of the director telling the story, it seems you deliberately put some strong music with the images-songs and images which arouse strong emotions. Before the audience is bored by all the talking, you put on a striking musical tune. This seems to be the technique of propaganda. I want to know your opinion: do you want the film to be propaganda of what you believe in, or do you want the audience to have a critical analysis of the situation?
Shabnam Virmani: I make films primarily for social change. My hope is that women and men who see the film walk out with an altered self-perception and world view. I am in complete belief that social change is not only analysis and opinions. You must work with emotions as well as with information, or you won't achieve what you want. So it is with no apologies that I say I used the song to arouse emotions. This specific song (used in the film) is a popular movement-related song. Each passage of the song had a link with the women I was interviewing. So, the decision was to leave it.
I'd like to add a few words about the methodology of making this film. Most of my films are collective experiences rather than fiercely individual filmic perceptions of reality. The women with whom I make these films invariably get involved in the scripting, acting, and in this case even the editing. In the production process they develop a sense of ownership about the film, which is used by these women in their respective local areas. So it is a very different quality we are pursuing: the filmmaking process itself ends up having value instead of just the finished end product.
They're very happy that the film is being shown overseas. The whole process upon which the film was made, was based on the question, "What is it about your own life story that you want to tell the world about?" It was very clear that with that ideal in their minds, they got involved in such a big way in the making of the film. It went from a more passive attitude, from "Okay, this filmmaker has come to make a film about us," to becoming more involved and participating in the filmmaking decisions. Because they felt that this was their film, and that it was going out and telling stories to the rest of the world about their experiences, they're thrilled that it's reaching so far and that women from Japan and other countries can see it.
This year's Cannes Film Festival saw the international premiere of a 32-year-old director's first feature-length film. Among masters like Kitano Takeshi and Chen Kaige, the Official Competition presented Yu Lik-wai's Love Will Tear Us Apart, the story of a young woman migrant from mainland China and a local Hong Kong man working in the porn video business. His previous film, Neon Goddesses, was a 46-minute documentary co-produced by young friends in Belgium and Hong Kong, and was invited to New Asian Currents '97.
Not only a director to his own films, Lik-wai is also sought after by many filmmakers in China as a director of photography. Emerging independent Jia Zhanke's award-winning Xiao Wu, and Hong Kong's leading director Ann Hui's recent Ordinary Heroes are among his credits. He is also scheduled to work with YIDFF '97 Juror Ning Ying on her new feature this summer.
Neon Goddesses presents a sketch of modernizing Beijing, where young women work in nightclubs and discos and dream of success. Looking back at its presentation at the YIDFF '97, perhaps we can catch glimpses of the inspiration for his later Cannes debut.
Moderator: As a filmmaker based in Hong Kong, why did you decide to shoot in Beijing and with these characters? Tell us about the initial concept.
Yu Lik-wai: When I first came to Beijing for the preparation of this film, I had just one fixed idea: to make some portraits, some cinematic portraits of contemporary China. I had no fixed idea on which subjects I'd become close to, but finally, within a very short one month of research, I came across most of the subjects: the women, the women's work, and their lives. From this I made this series of portraits.
There are two reasons why I like Beijing. One is that professionally speaking, there's more opportunity for me to work as a cameraman or director in Beijing than in Hong Kong, because Beijing is a very dynamic city-in terms of production, too. The second reason is that there are many good, creative people in Beijing working in independent productions, who have a conception of cinema very close to mine. I can collaborate very closely with them.
Audience A: Working on the subject of women, I wondered what you learned and if you'd continue on the subject?
Yu Lik-wai: In fact, I've learned a lot from this film. It was my first attempt to make a film about a female subject, which was very scary for me. It's very easy to be voyeuristic and stereotyped, to work with preconceived ideas. I've never pretended it to be an in-depth study of latter-day women in China. It was made according to my own conception of a cinematic portrait, as I believe portraits are superficial anyway, no matter whether it's a male or female subject. There's essentially something about a portrait you can never penetrate, something impenetrable, regardless of whether it's a photographic or a painted portrait.
Regarding intimacy, this time I'm very distant from the subject compared to other films I have made, where I am more attached to people. Maybe female subjects were an impasse for me in forming attachment. I did become friends with them, but that wasn't anything too significant. For me, in any case, when I want to make a portrait, there's a mask before me, something impenetrable.
But because this is a film with women as its subject, the distance is more immense, and itself becomes more important. As I say, intimacy is something very important in documentary. And I believe in intimacy, but I think, finally, intimacy can't help, because there's always something impenetrable.
So making this film-making a film about a female subject-has been a very disturbing experience for me. As for what kind of direction I turn to in the future, I think I have to develop new techniques to make portraits other than the style of this quite conventional documentary. Some other style to make documentary.
Moderator: The film does show your relationship with the women: the women are thrilled to be filmed and seem to be attracted to the person behind the camera; possibly it's a sexual attraction.
Yu Lik-wai: To a certain extent I would agree with you; the most striking example would be the second part, with the model. When I saw the rushes, I thought, "Oh my god," and felt something very bad, because when she walked, she walked like a model. When she smiled, she smiled like a model: every time, every minute, every single second. I don't think it's much of a question of sexual attraction because it depends on the personality of the subject. And everyone would automatically put on a mask before the camera.
What I think is interesting is whether the filmmaker leaves this mask on and plays with it, or tries to penetrate or take off the mask. I think some techniques should be developed for me to make a film, without necessarily playing with or removing the mask. In this film perhaps I was just trapped between these two possibilities.
In response to the question, I never pretend this film presents an objective reality. It is, without a doubt, a subjective reality from a male point of view. I'll never deny that.
At the Awards Ceremony at the YIDFF '97, I was sitting with the audience when Li Hong's name was announced as the winner of the Ogawa Shinsuke Prize, awarded to the most promising Asian filmmaker in New Asian Currents. Right in front of me, it was Li Xiaoshan, her partner, who jumped up with joy and struck a pose of victory. As Li Hong's filmmaking associate and personal companion, his face glowed with pride as he urged Li Hong to the stage. Li Hong beaming on stage and Li Xiaoshan's shaved head dancing in the audience; it was perhaps with this team effort that Out of Phoenix Bridge was completed after three years of unrelenting research and production. For the Q&A sessions after the screenings, Li Hong decided to meet the audience together with Li Xiaoshan.
The film follows four young female migrant workers in Beijing who live crammed in one small room. Despite long hours of hard work and sad living conditions, they enjoy the freest years of their lives-at least until the day comes when they must return to their closed villages and future husbands.
Li Hong has since worked with a BBC editor to edit the film into a shorter version for TV broadcast. Her English has improved amazingly. She is now planning a documentary about Chinese people today for British television.
Audience A: What personal feelings pushed you to make the film? How did you succeed in forming such intimate relationships with the girls that it looks natural? It's not so easy to use a camera in such a small place.
Li Hong: We had been interacting with the girls for around one year before starting to shoot, and our relationship gradually warmed as time went by. In the beginning they were nervous and the video images betrayed the uptight atmosphere. But as we spent more time together, we became more relaxed. Towards the end, you can see that they were living their ordinary lives even during the shooting, without being conscious of the camera.
Moderator: We saw that Xiazi finally chose to live her life in the city. Do you think her encounter with you, a sophisticated and independent city woman, influenced her decision?
Li Hong: No, I don't think so. Xiazi was different from the other three girls from the start. She knew the techniques of haircutting. For a woman from a farming community, the biggest challenge is to make a living outside farming. Xiazi's goal was to escape from the agrarian life by using the skills she had. It was because of this-not me-that she decided to study hairdressing in Beijing.
Moderator: If I may add on to my question, images of Xiazi which appear in the latter half of the film seem to be brimming with confidence and self-expression. I believe that being the object of a camera for a long time can change people. Don't you think it is possible that her self-perception could have been changed by the filming?
Li Xiaoshan: I'm not sure if this will answer your question, but we ourselves changed through the process of filming. In the beginning, even we filmmakers couldn't differentiate between the four girls. Gradually, we became aware of their individual characters, especially Xiazi. The film reflects the exact process of our learning about them.
Our initial choice to film these four girls among so many rural migrants was not based on any particular connection with them. Rather, they were the only ones who accepted our proposal to make a film about them. That's why at the outset we knew nothing about them. As we spent more time together, we gradually found common topics to talk about. In that sense, I don't think you could say that Xiazi was influenced by Li Hong. Xiazi herself claimed, at the very end of the production, "City people and rural people like us are different after all. We have our own way of thinking."
Audience B: How did Xiazi's family and parents react to the filming?
Li Xiaoshan: In China, there is hardly any privacy. It is so common for people's privacy to be invaded by others, that it is natural for personal lives to be exposed in front of people's noses. That is especially the case in farming communities.
That's one reason why there is no particular reaction against outside interventions like a filming crew. People behave naturally in front of the camera. Secondly, television and film are physically and psychologically very distant media for the farmers. They had no idea what the shooting was about. Their major concern was whether Li Hong was a slave trafficker. After they found out that that was not the case, there were no problems in the filming.
Audience C: Beijing people are cold towards migrant workers, sometimes even brutal. In this film, we see few Beijing people, only perhaps the landlady and the policeman. Can you tell us what kind of attitude the Beijing people took towards the migrants? Did you yourselves change your views of the migrant workers during the course of filming?
Li Hong: Generally speaking, migrant workers' lives are incomprehensible to Beijing people. I myself would still have been ignorant and disinterested, had it not been for this film. This is the ordinary Beijing citizen's attitude. At the same time, the migrants themselves know just as little about the people of Beijing. The only Beijing people they get to know are perhaps just their landlords and employers. That's why I was very peculiar to them. I did not deal with them like other Beijing citizens.
I myself learned about them through the making of this film. As a result, I have, compared to other Beijing people, probably gained a more objective understanding of them. For example, city people often have the impression that farmers are good or homey folk, while migrant workers are considered bad or dirty. There are two extremes. Through filming them, I realized that each girl had her own governing factors and individual manner of thinking. That is the complexity of the Chinese people in farming communities.
Li Xiaoshan: China is currently in the midst of transition. Everything is changing, everything is transforming. One such symptom can be seen in the close interchange between rural areas and the cities. I mean the population shift. With such a major migration comes heightened pressure, a tension between urban and rural people. It's unavoidable that each would start creating extreme images of each other. Not only good, but also bad images are projected. That is a very difficult problem.
Independent Chinese documentarists featured at past New Asian Currents programs often chose to record the lives and activities of artist friends and the people around them. Unlike them, Wang Jian-wei's entry into the video medium was initiated from a conceptual interest in form and space. A renowned artist in Chinese contemporary art, his paintings and installation works have been exhibited and acclaimed around the world.
His first video piece Production presents images from a series of Sichuan teahouses, a communal place where people meet and socialize. The teahouse, an important symbolic place for him, has been featured in his painting in the past.
Since the YIDFF '97, he continues with video-making. His new work, Living in the Other Place, is scheduled for completion in June this year.
Wang Jian-wei: As I usually work in the field of contemporary art, my background is quite different from filmmakers who've been doing documentaries. I think of this film as being a "record of my research."
I was inspired to make this film through a conversation with my father a few years ago. Reading the newspaper, my father said, "So the Soviet Union finally collapsed. It seems the people over there are suffering a lot." I asked him, "How do you know that?" My father looked at me dubiously and said, "Because it's written in the newspaper." Of course the Soviets are suffering, because it's written in the papers. That was a very natural conclusion for my father. From that, I became interested in the justification and legitimization of events in Chinese daily life.
That is indeed the reason why I chose the "Teahouse" as my shooting locale, a traditional place for socializing for the Chinese people. The teahouse is a typically symbolic place, a place oriental from the standpoint of foreigners, while representing folk traditions and local customs for the Chinese. Meanwhile, I discovered that "meaning" is both produced and consumed as daily life goes on at these teahouses. The teahouse is not only a symbol, but also a site of production.
Moderator: Unlike other Chinese documentaries screened at New Asian Currents in the past, you seem more interested in the form of what you film than the actual people.
Wang Jian-wei: Though teahouses are indeed places for people to spend their everyday lives, I wanted to capture the status and meaning of the "anonymous acts" that take place there. The meanings that emerge from "anonymous acts" can be both continuous and broken. That I think you have already seen in the film Production.
This film is shot in a so-called amateur style. This represents the intent to create the work from a position that is not yet ruled by regulations. The title is Production. When talking about "production," artists often consider the finished artwork, and seek artistic integrity there, but I myself am interested in the "process" of production. How do artists approach their issues? That is what I aim to project. Answers or results do not interest me.
Audience A: How much footage did you have for each teahouse?
Wang Jian-wei: I shot one full day per teahouse. Though there are five teahouses that appear in this film, I initially shot in ten teahouses. One full day means from when the teahouse opens in the morning to closing time. Before the actual shooting, I visited many times for research and prepared myself by getting used to the atmosphere, so all in all the shooting took one and a half months. And in fact, I had spent fifteen years thinking about teahouses before actually making this film.
When I was seventeen, I went to the rural areas because of the Cultural Revolution program of sending students to the countryside. In the village there was a net of political alliances that hindered me from being fully accepted by the locals. The only place I could enter was the teahouse, where the fetters of power relations were dissolved. Since then, I've been thinking about the teahouse as being perhaps the best place to express the intricacies of human relationships.
Audience B: About the production: did you formulate the work's structure after you shot the footage, or vice versa?
Wang Jian-wei: This film is a "process of research." Based upon pre-production research, I did prepare a storyboard and a script (a project proposal put on paper), but decided to drop it just before shooting.
What I mean to say is, intellectuals in general tend to view things through an existing framework, saying "this is so-and-so." They immobilize the subject through their preconceived notions. That's why I thought that I must abandon my framework. As you can see, the visuals I shot look this way and that, moving around restlessly. The gaze is not stable. It looks like the subjective viewpoint of someone who has just entered a teahouse.
Self-proclaimed "Dreamer" Makin Fung Bin-fai is an active Hong Kong artist working in a wide array of creative fields including film, video, music, and multimedia. His fast speech and late working hours may match the stereotype of the Hong Kong entrepreneur, but there is a certain earnestness about him that makes conversation with him relaxed and openhearted. This discussion after the screening of Hong Kong Road Movie was indeed an enjoyable experience.
This pre-1997 film, using sophisticated computer equipment and sound design, juxtaposes the opaque future of Hong Kong with the mixed feelings of a person traveling in its streets. Makin has since traveled to Japan again with his digital camera and finished a new film about the internet.
Moderator: I enjoyed exchanging e-mail with you in preparation for this film festival. That in itself has a lot to do with this film. There was a sense of instant intimacy communicating on the internet. When I met you finally for the first time a few days ago, I felt like you were an old friend.
Makin Fung: I agree. The internet and e-mail have the power to connect people living around the world, in New York, in Tokyo, anywhere. It can bring people closer together, and it can become the bearer of culture and politics. That's one of the good things about the new technology. I want to mention that the other films in this program, from Hong Kong and Macau, depict Hong Kong and the cities in a more historical way, with culture, with folklore, and so on. And that I find quite true for many Asian documentaries. It's interesting to know that my film sees Hong Kong in a more technological way.
Moderator: I feel not only intimacy in this film, but also a feeling of being lost or a certain anonymity on the internet. Perhaps this corresponds to one of the questions you asked Laurie Wen at her Q&A session for the film A Trained Chinese Tongue. You talked about how Chinese people in diaspora are afraid of loneliness, perhaps because they are used to a communal environment.
Makin Fung: I guess the feeling of loneliness is quite dominant, especially in Hong Kong. Indeed the Hong Kong people have no father and no mother. The British government is not our father, the Chinese government is not our mother. So we are just orphans, orphans in this world. So we make money, do business, and live all around the world: Vancouver, Toronto, Australia, Sydney. You know, Hong Kong people are scattered everyplace around the world. We don't have a real homeland. So in that sense, that type of loneliness is especially strong for the people who stay in Hong Kong, who are not going anywhere. What do they do? They don't have a homeland. They get addicted, involved in making money, or . . . play with the internet! (laugh)
I can add that-as you can see in my film as well as the film about Kowloon and A Fading Flower-all these Hong Kong films have a common problem. They are talking about things that don't seem to have a concentrated energy and emotion. That may be the Hong Kong way of living, you know. We are talking about nothing!
One reason for this is political. Raising political issues in the media is indeed a really dangerous thing in Hong Kong and China. Our friends in the Philippines and India can talk about corruption and everything and still make a film and come to Yamagata. But in China it's quite different. In China they deal with media politically in a quite complex way. They can suppress the media without you knowing it.
That's the reason why I made the political statement about the politics of Hong Kong and China in my film in a very complex way, through visual images and through the left and right, the slow and fast analogies, and all these types of things. Indeed that is a political statement. But it comes out in a "fashion" kind of way, so people don't think it's a political statement.
Moderator: So you think the audience is pretty dumb, huh? (laugh)
Makin Fung: No, no, only those people up there.
Audience A: Can you comment on the use of language? How did you decide when to use Chinese and when to use English in your subtitles and voiceovers?
Makin Fung: That is a good question and one of the major issues in my works. Hong Kong people, as you know, are multilingual-a special Hong Kong feature. Even when we talk everyday speech-Hong Kong people to Hong Kong people-we use Chinese and English mixed together. For this particular film, I use English as a basis. But for a few of the poems and prose I return to the Chinese, because these are the texts I feel most involved in, a stronger feeling in the Chinese with which I can read and reflect on my situation. I read the Chinese text, but basically I communicate in English.
Interesting for me is that up till today, my film is the only one I've seen that didn't have an interview.
Moderator: Well, that means you haven't seen too many yet. (laugh)
Makin Fung: Anyway it raises an interesting issue. It makes me think about documentary and reality. When we do interviews, when people talk, where is the reality? Is that reality the same force or the same truth as when the filmmaker projects his own emotions and opinions into the film? In Ah Ming's Macau (dir. Chu Iao-ian), and In Search for the Dragon's Tale (dir. See Wan-kei, Haymann Lau), I have some strange feelings, some questions about how much truth the people express in their interviews. How can a filmmaker interpret the truth of an interviewee's words? That is the problem.