An Interview with Zhu Shengze (Director)
Getting a Glimpse Into Today’s China Through the Dining Scenes of a Migrant Worker’s Family
Q: Your film captures a migrant worker’s family in long takes. How did you film them?
ZS: First, I did a test shoot in December 2013, and started the actual filming in January 2014. I did about four to eight shoots a month. My filming period was approximately two weeks in the middle of every month. That is because I wanted to leave some interval between each pair of dinner scenes. Although this film consists of only thirteen shots, it actually took us up to a whole year to edit it, because it was extremely difficult to select the beginning and ending of each scene.
Also, I wanted to make a film that showcased the framing. I filmed the opening in January in a long shot partly as a way of introducing all the family members to the audience. As the film approaches the end, I used about the distance of a medium shot. That way, I wanted the framing to express something.
Q: I thought your film wonderfully captures the everyday moments of an ordinary family. How did you establish a relationship with your subjects?
ZS: I met the family for the first time in 2012 and started filming in 2014, so there was enough time for me to build up a good relation with them. I think that’s why I was able to intentionally create an environment where they could behave themselves naturally.
First, I used a small camera, and the only people present at the location were a cameraman and me. We didn’t use any lighting equipment, and once we started filming, we didn’t move at all. That’s how we created an environment where they wouldn’t have to be conscious of our presence. Yet, the fact is that we were physically there in the scene and they were aware of our presence. In the shot in December where the oldest daughter fought with her mother and started crying, she turned her back on the camera because she didn’t want us to film her crying face.
Q: The Chinese economy has been booming rapidly, but what kinds of issues do you think might arise from that growth?
ZS: In today’s China, many people from the countryside have migrated to the city to work, and the Chinese population is becoming concentrated in the city. Yet, there is a registration policy that applies differently to people living in the countryside and those in the city. Due to this policy, those from the countryside are extremely restricted when looking for a job or studying in the city. Even so, people still try to work in the city because the salaries there would be higher than those for farming. These workers are in extremely vulnerable positions. I wanted to depict this reality in my film, and that’s why I chose a multigenerational family as the subject.
What kind of changes would one family undergo over the course of a year when the Chinese economy is growing so quickly? How might each individual transform? How would a tiny everyday event shape that person’s life? Along with social issues, I am very interested in things that are universal to human beings.
(Compiled by Okawa Akihiro)
Interviewers: Okawa Akihiro, Nagayama Momo / Interpreter: Yamanouchi Etsuko / Translator: Morisue Noriko
Photography: Tadera Saeko / Video: Kano Haruna / 2017-10-06