YIDFF 2015 New Asian Currents
An Interview with Daniel Hui (Director)

What History are You Seeking in Time Travel?

Q: When viewing the film I was quite confused about exactly whose story—and from which timeline—I was seeing. It feels like you expected the viewer to be confused.

DH: I think of filmmaking itself as just like the process of time travel, of drawing out past occurrences, watching them again, and thinking about them again. I consciously put the narrative together with this notion of time travel in mind. In the early stages of production I feared that I myself might get confused watching it, but when I watched the finished work I could see that that was just fine.

I wanted to focus the film on the present and future, and so I wanted to capture well the way in which people in the present understand the past. So by talking to young people, I wanted to film the extent to which history still lives in today’s society and times. Young people perceived history in two different ways, whether they felt that one exists in the present on the basis of a past, which is called “history,” or whether they felt that one exists in the present without any such past called “history,” I hoped to include many different people’s opinions in order to help viewers understand.

Q: There are scenes where it doesn’t necessarily appear that footage and the narrator’s words are synched. Why did you decide on this sort of composition?

DH: There is the method of choosing footage based on the narration iteslf, but in this work my method was to choose footage that expressed the narrator’s feelings, or that could serve as a symbol of what was being said.

Also, in the scene with the cat, I think that the soul or spirit of people dwells in all kinds of living beings, and I wanted to include that in the film. I found more truth in this than just a person talking.

Q: The scene from the second half with the man and the cat feels almost like watching a melodrama. Why did you direct it in this way?

DH: For me, this scene is the climax of the film. It implies a kind of “release” for the film. This entire film is a heavy, sad film, and there were many times during production when I myself felt hollowed out emotionally. So I definitely wanted to shoot one redeeming scene, a “release” scene. As for the song that plays in that scene—it’s actually impossible to do, but I wanted it to convey a happy feeling within the film. I wanted to use it no matter what. I think that including this scene gives some balance to the impression of the film, so even though it’s heavy and sad there’s the hope that happiness is out there.

Q: It feels like words related to “movies” appear in this piece at every turn. Was there some design to this?

DH: The era of the “movies” that appears in this piece is the 1950s, an important era for Singapore both politically and for film production. But the reality is that there are no extant records of this period. Even in the archives there is no footage of this period. An aim of my film was to leave behind some record of the era of “erased history.” In my film I wanted to record the very fact that there was no record, and I think there’s a debate to be had about whether this record should be left, or whether it’s okay to not leave any at all. In all historical reality there exist two sides: what is taught and what is not taught. I wanted viewers to think about this when watching the film.

(Compiled by Hirai Mona)

Interviewers: Hirai Mona, Sato Hiroaki / Interpreter: Watanabe Ayaka / Translator: Tyler Walker
Photography: Ishizawa Kana / Video: Kusunose Kaori / 2015-10-14