An Interview with Nova Goh (Director)
The Beautiful Dream of Revolution
Q: This film’s subject matter begins with your mother and aunt and expands to a social level. Can you tell me about that approach?
NG: There are two approaches to addressing historical events. The first is to start at the center of the event, and the second is to start with people involved in that event. I took the latter approach, beginning with people close to me and gradually moving toward the event itself. During the period covered in this film, left-wing movements surged in Taiwan and Japan. My mother wasn’t involved herself, but my aunts entered deep into the world of politics. My mother isn’t the central character of this story, but I begin with her because if she weren’t around, I would never have come to make this film.
Q: In your film I felt a loose theme of “oldness.” On one hand you depict traditions and family ties in the ethnic Chinese community, and on the other nostalgia for a bygone communal life. How are tradition and guerilla communes related?
NG: That was a time of socialist movements, like the Cultural Revolution in China. The Cultural Revolution rejected tradition, but despite being rejected in China, those traditions were maintained by ethnic Chinese societies in Southeast Asia. Precisely because they were separated from their home, ethnic Chinese held a strong desire to uphold the traditions of their people. For instance, every year Chinese diaspora across the world hold dance contests on Chinese New Year. And, as shown in this film, events like festivals are upheld by the Chinese community in Malaysia. When I was filming in 2008, these traditions were all part of the lives of ethnic Chinese in Malaysia.
Today communist guerillas have taken their own paths, and the relationships between them are no longer grounded in Communism. Nevertheless, the relationships are very close, and I think it’s more correct to say they come from a sense of nostalgia for a lost guerrilla past. The guerrillas are comrades who lived in the jungle, pursuing their ideals and fighting hardship together. This film shows many different episodes, such as the guerillas having to walk the jungle without shoes. Their unique sense of trust and unity are beyond the ability of youths like myself to comprehend.
Q: What did you intend by the text in the last scene?
NG: Those words are from Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung. There are big dreams in those words, and dreams are what brought about the Cultural Revolution and caused the Revolution in Cuba. Yet there is a large gap between ideals and reality, and the revolutionaries were not able to attain the beautiful, ideal world they sought. Even so, humanity continues to revolt. I am not saying we should return to Mao Tse-Tung’s time; I only think those words were the source of dreams. In and of themselves, those dreams were not wrong. Regardless of their outcome, I do not think they were incorrect. I want to cheer for those who pursue their dreams, no matter what the result. Simply pursuing a dream is not wrong, which is the message those words contain.
(Compiled by Keino Yutaro)
Interviewers: Keino Yutaro, Kimuro Shiho / Interpreter: Higuchi Yuko / Translator: Kyle Hecht
Photography: Onuma Ayaka / Video: Horikawa Keita / 2011-10-10