YIDFF 2003 International Competition
Gift of Life
An Interview with Wu Yii-feng

I Want You to Contemplate Life

Q: What prompted you to make this film?

WY: Even though this work films the site of an earthquake, I wasn’t looking to make a film about the natural phenomenon of an earthquake. I don’t think of documentaries as being about shooting natural phenomena, so that was never a motivation for me. How people react when they encounter the earthquake phenomenon was the main theme for my film. I was most interested in the kind of strength that people possess in order to recover from the emotional wounds inflicted by a devastating earthquake, so it was my goal to capture that inner dimension of people who are gradually overcoming their emotional wounds. So I spent three or four years, trying to capture them gradually overcoming their emotional wounds. And of course, the fact that I was personally very concerned with the idea of the gift of life was a large motivational factor.

Q: I could sense from your film that you had established a relationship of trust with your subjects.

WY: I believe it is important to become friends with your subjects during filming. It’s no good to point your camera at people you’ve just met. Whether someone is willing to talk to the camera depends on whether they trust you or not. I think that in a documentary of this nature, it’s a growing process for both the side doing the filming and the side being filmed. By going through a certain period of time together, we begin to reach an understanding of each other as unique individuals. Through this process, the subjects begin to be able to talk to me in a very natural way.

Q: Can you give me any specific examples of how you established this relationship of trust?

WY: We went to go film at the site of the devastation immediately after the earthquake hit. At first we just stayed by their sides and tried to help out as much as possible, but at that time they thought we were from some TV station and were very suspicious of us. But we remained by their side long after the TV crews and journalists all left. We wanted to witness their sorrow up close. And as we continued to do this, they began to gradually understand what we were trying to do.

Q: What kind of personal feelings have you put into this film?

WY: Over the course of history countless people have contemplated the question of what life really is, and though people have continually tried to answer this, there has been no conclusive answer. However, I feel that even if we cannot find an answer, there is meaning in thinking about this question. Even though it is becoming increasingly rare in recent times that people contemplate the meaning of life, I hope that through seeing this film, people will be encouraged to think more about it. Even if you can’t come up with an answer, that’s okay because nobody else has. There doesn’t even need to be an answer. I believe it’s enough that you’re prompted to think about it.

(Compiled by Sonobe Mamiko)

Interviewers: Sonobe Mamiko, Tanaka Rio / Interpreter: Higuchi Yuko
Photography: Sato Hiroaki / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2003-10-10