An Interview with Lam Chi-hang
Looking for Value That Is Being Lost
Q: What prompted you to make this piece?
LC: Originally this was an assignment for school. But just as I was making the piece, my school was temporarily closed because of the SARS crisis. No one could help me make the piece, since everyone had to stay locked up at home to avoid getting infected. I immediately thought of making the piece about things directly connected to me, though I’d started out shooting on my own because I had no other choice. I really wanted to say that while SARS is definitely a huge catastrophe, the most important thing in Hong Kong right now is that at this very moment we’re continuing to lose precious things, and we need to pay attention and do something before it’s too late to bring things back.
Q: The news footage was taken from the internet, right?
LC: People get their news from the television, radio or internet based on their own preferences, but for this piece I had no choice but to download the news from the internet. This is because I needed to use old footage, not things that were being aired in real time. Although I think how great it would have been to get a rawer newsy feeling if I could have gotten those images directly from the television.
Q: How did you proceed with the shooting?
LC: I did almost all the shooting on my own. I asked friends when I really needed help, but it was tough to call on people since everyone was holed up at home with the SARS crisis. So the object of my curiosity shifted toward myself, and I became interested in presenting my own story and way of looking at things. So I pointed the camera at things I know really well like my own home, family and buildings in the neighborhood.
I think viewers probably pick up on a lot of things that are kind of strange, since it’s not like I had a lot of experience in digital video production and I wasn’t that familiar with the visual language. But I made this piece reflecting my own extremely personal ideas, without intending to show it to a lot of people. Before the SARS crisis I was living in a college dormitory and I didn’t have time to go home, but when the school shut down suddenly I was walking around the neighborhood I’d known since childhood. It wasn’t like I was really living in the area and it’s perplexing to me too, but I felt really strong and profound emotions seeing the old buildings that looked like they’d been abandoned. And at the same time I understood that even if I was deeply moved emotionally, it was probably totally useless. I mean destruction probably continues now. I feel a sense of powerlessness not being able to do anything about the situation. It’s strange but I’m still really attached to the environment where I was born and raised. Even though connections like that were severed long ago for my generation.
At first I made this piece just as a school assignment, but thanks to being selected for YIDFF I got to visit Yamagata, and I think it’s become a departure point for me to think about a lot of things. At the festival I’ve been able to see documentaries from a lot of different countries, and for example the depiction of Brazilian music in Sound of Brasil taught me how music becomes a country’s “spirit” that gives people hope, and seeing Japanese documentaries showed me that traditional customs are still alive here. But Hong Kong is different. Competition is way too fierce, and everyone gets wrapped up in beating their opponent so they can be the winner. The huge rupture between the present and past is a problem too, and even if I wanted to somehow preserve valuable things from the past, I’m without any kind of armor and I just feel really disheartened.
(Compiled by Kato Takanobu)
Interviewers: Endo Nao, Kato Takanobu / Interpreters: Maggie Lee, Saito Shinko
Photography: Yamazaki Ryo / Video: Sonobe Mamiko / 2003-10-14