Cinematographer Christopher Doyle might not be a household name, but Asian film buffs know him for his collaborations with Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai: cult film festival favorites like In the Mood for Love, Chungking Express, and Days of Being Wild. Doyle hails from Australia; prior to his career in filmmaking he worked as an oil driller and even a cow herder. His fluency in Mandarin and languid visual style brought him in contact with auteurs in the Asian film world in the 1980s—among them Edward Yang, Zhang Yimou, and Wong—which might explain why Doyle is much better known in Asia than in Hollywood, where his most visible film is M. Night Shyamalan’s 2006 Lady in the Water.
Hong Kongers know Doyle as Du KeFung—something of an enfant terrible in their corner of the world. That’s perhaps because in the press Doyle has a record that includes not showing up to interviews and mouthing off about other people’s films (to many journalists’ delight). But on the heels of Hong Kong’s umbrella movement, it seems as if Doyle might have turned over a new leaf.
His latest film project is both serious and seriously experimental: Preschooled, Preoccupied, Preposterous, aims to capture the real Hong Kong in a trilogy of short films that focuses on children, young adults, and the old. The fictional documentary uses ordinary people as actors, as well as footage from Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, where Doyle has been seen hanging out. He’s compared this movie’s process as akin to jazz: There’s a score, but also a lot of improvisation.
The Chinese film industry is making more money than ever: 2014’s box office hit nearly $5 billion, and some are predicting the dawn of a golden age of Chinese cinema. While controversial films will still be banned, even Hollywood has beenbending to the government’s censorship demands. Given that the Chinese government has restricted all press and social media coverage about Hong Kong’s umbrella movement, it’s almost certain that Doyle’s new film will also be banned, making it the sort of underdog experimental picture he’s known for. His current campaign to raise money for Preschooled, Preoccupied, Preposterous on Kickstarter reached half of its $100,000 goal in just 1 day.
The Atlantic spoke with Doyle and his collaborators Jenny Suen and Ken Hui about what they hope to accomplish with the movie.
Bourree Lam: What were some of the stories you were aiming to tell in this movie, and how did you conceive them?
Jenny Suen: We didn’t really conceive of any of the stories. We researched the stories by talking to the kids. So I didn’t ask them any kind of specific questions, it was very basic stuff like “What do you do when you go home?” “What do you want to be when you grow up?” kind of thing.
Christopher Doyle: Since I’m not the same age and I wasn’t born here, some of us have different relationships with this community and it’s about, what are the kids’ stories? The most interesting way for us to approach them was for them to tell their own stories. So that was the basic point of departure.
It evolved from that road to interviews that became the structural impetus, or the direction that our imaginations took off from. So it’s this kind of mélange of very subjective, personal responses to where these kids are at this period of their young lives. And us taking that to try to give it a kind of parallel, or if you can say, more poetic visual representation of some of the ideas and how we felt and responded to their dreams, and their personal situations and their relationship with other people in the city. That became the stylistic conceit.
Lam: Can you talk about your relationship with Hong Kong?
Doyle: Hong Kong and I have a very long relationship from our collaboration with other people’s work or working on other projects together. Then it got to a point where so many people were making so many films in China, people like us felt like we had to speak up …We want some ongoing relationship with this generation, which is more or less frustrated, if not dissatisfied, with the financial and socioeconomic, and in the background, the political journey of this period of time. Even though I wasn’t born here I started making films here. In terms of my relationship it came from having this longterm interaction with Hong Kong. We have certain talents, we have a certain idealism, we have a certain voice, and we’d better speak up for ourselves.
Lam: How did you find different participants for this movie, and how did you get them to be part of your film?
Suen: For the first part, it was very organized. We had casting sessions. I talked to probably over a hundred kids. For the second and third part [of the movie] it was more organic. They were people we knew or saw on the street. There was one [man] who we would see carrying cardboard and making cardboard things on the street all the time, and Chris thought that he was making the piles for recycling. But it turns out he was one of the best actors in the film so far. [The actors in the film] were just people we encountered. There was one actor who’s a waiter from a Peking duck restaurant, and every time I tried to order something he would tell me it wasn’t good and try to get me to order something I didn’t want. Sometimes we’d have an idea, like we wanted a tram driver and I rode a tram for three hours and tried to get real people to consent to an interview, which was actually quite funny because [the tram driver] can only talk to you when the tram stops.
Doyle: My job is to bring in whichever visual metaphors resonate. Or expand an idea. My part of the team’s collaboration is: This will say something about our community. For example, scaffolding makers building hundred-story buildings. We may or may not find these people, but from our point of view and the audience’s point of view, we want to engage and represent some parts of Hong Kong that have never been represented before on film. I think those things are important. You go into this quasi-documentary area and ask what are the aspects of Hong Kong society that are basically hidden behind the veneer of commercialism. You want to have a relationship with people or social situations or context that they’re not totally familiar with because they should be shared and celebrated. It started from the kids—it was astonishing the difference between total complacency and mediocrity and these sparks of energy we were encountering.
I think that’s what we’re trying to celebrate, the energy of this city. My films are the way they are because I started in Hong Kong. They look the way they do because Hong Kong looks like this. It’s not because I have some stylistic genius, and to anybody who asks me about it at a film festival that’s exactly what I say: The films are the way they are because they come from this place. I think that’s very much the basic and intrinsic thing we’re trying to find out and rejuvenate this energy. What’s happened the past three or four months in Hong Kong is a perfect condensation of that. It’s a perfect crucible of that. It’s a very precise and articulate metaphor for this whole process that started with these kids. And it’s certainly the aspiration of the young people here.
Lam: How did the umbrella movement become part of your film?
Doyle: Because I couldn’t get to work. I live around the corner, and all the usual stuff—it was there. As filmmakers you have a responsibility to your society. It’s so astonishing for me to look at and record, and the characters are so engaged. It articulates our original intentions for the film … It’s such an astonishing celebration of Hong Kong. They didn’t just stop the traffic, they stopped to let us think.
Lam: How was it filming real people there given your connection to the place?
Suen: I was super proud to be from Hong Kong. Everyday I wake up and I’m proud of what we’re doing. There are a lot of people saying the kids are just protesting because they can’t get a decent job, or no one can afford a house ever. They say that it’s the economics, stupid. But I think people do things for many reasons other than money, and part of why we are doing this film is because we feel like we have to assert a new Hong Kong identity.
Doyle: You have to be super conscious of the integrity of people … not exploit it as part of our film, because these kids are doing this wonderful stuff and how idealistic they are. No. These kids are doing what many of us didn’t dare to do, they’re celebrating their city and their idealism in a way that has to be honored. That’s how I personally feel about it.
Lam: I want to talk about using the “real people of Hong Kong” approach. What did you learn about the hopes and dreams of the young and old people of Hong Kong? And what were some of the challenges or advantages of working with real people instead of actors?
Doyle: It’s the same thing for me: even if it’s Gong Li or Leslie Cheung, if you give them something to do, they do better. If it’s something physical or you give them a certain situation that articulates something they feel comfortable with, then all kinds of very wonderful actor-ly things come out because it’s very naturalistic—that’s just the filming side. For example, the guy who’s recycling the cardboard and the trash on the street—he’s probably one of the greatest actors I’ve ever worked with.
Doyle: He is, because he is what he is. Pretense doesn’t get in the way. In my world, 99 percent of what we experience in cinema or TV is usually fake. And the real pleasure for me as a filmmaker is to engage with real people, because they’re not pretending to be anything more or less than what they are … To me, whether it’s a good or bad film doesn’t matter, but I personally have a great sense of these kids. It’s partly our collaboration, but it’s mostly them being who they are. And that was our job, to get them into that space and to give them the space that they feel most comfortable with—and I think that comes through in the film. With any film, if you believe the person in front of the camera, then you believe their story. If you have an engagement with them, that’s my job, then you’ll have empathy for them. I mean, why does world music work? You don’t understand what they’re saying, but you sense the energy of the people who are trying to communicate their point of view and experience. I think that’s what we have to dare to try to do. If you don’t go there, then it’ll never happen.
Angry Asian Man:
Here’s the festival trailer:
Here are some programming highlights:
A Leading Man
I-House, Wednesday, Nov 12th at 7PM
When a young and talented Chinese American actor is fired from his starring role on a television show, he attempts to salvage his career by sleeping with a successful casting director.
I-House, Thursday, Nov 13th at 6:30PM
Join host Chef Ed Kenny as he travels the path of ancestors, from Hawaii to the homeland in this TV pilot of an Emmy Award-winning food genealogy travel show that explores the links between ethnic heritage and culinary cuisine.
I-House, Thursday, Nov 13th at 8:30PM
When Elementary School administrator Jumpei Taneda finds out he is sterile, he is thrust into an existential crisis that turns his life upside down.
Awesome Asian Bad Guys
I-House, Friday, Nov 14th at 6:00PM
Bad guys are awesome, especially Asian ones! American movies in the 80s and 90s always had hard-hitting Asian bad guys in flicks like Die Hard, Bloodsport, and Karate Kid 2.
I-House, Friday, Nov 14th at 7:30PM
The Uzumasa studio complex in Kyoto is widely regarded as the Hollywood of Japan, having produced many of the best jidigeki films (period dramas with sword fighting) beloved by Japanese and the rest of the world.
Eat with Me
I-House, Saturday, Nov 15th at 2:15PM
Tired of being invisible in a bland marriage, Emma moves in with her son Elliot in his loft in downtown LA. Elliot is a chef at a lackluster Chinese restaurant facing foreclosure. Also, he’s gay.
Farah Goes Bang
I-House, Saturday, Nov 15th at 6:30PM
During a cross-country road-trip campaigning for John Kerry in the 2004 Election, a Persian American woman in her twenties tries to lose her virginity.
I-House, Saturday, Nov 15th at 8:30PM
A determined young American woman named Audrey arrives in the Philippines with a mysterious mission, little money, and no chance of success.
Revenge of the Green Dragons
I-House, Saturday, Nov 15th at 10:30PM
When a gangland double cross threatens to ignite a war amongst the Asian American gangs of NYC, two friends must decide where their loyalties lie in this visually striking, high-octane thriller.
And there’s a lot more where that came from. Support independent Asian American film! For further information about the festival, including the full schedule of screening and events, tickets and venue details, head over to the PAAFF’14 website.
The joint will be jumping when the ninth annual Silk Screen film festival kicks off with a party at the Rivers Club, Downtown, April 25 with ethnic cuisine, jazz music, Asian performers and a DJ known as Pandemic Pete.
Tickets are now on sale for the opening gala that will start at 6:30 p.m. with a VIP champagne reception featuring the four-piece jazz ensemble the Cadillac Club.
A live auction will begin at 7:45 p.m. and Asian dance groups will take the floor from 8 to 9:30 p.m., with Pandemic Pete then spinning a hybrid of traditional folk and contemporary dance music from around the world until midnight.
A VIP ticket, $125 until April 18 and $150 after, includes admission at 6:30 p.m., dinner, drinks, dessert, performances by Pittsburgh dance and martial arts groups and the night-capping dance party.
A late-night ticket, $40 before April 18 and $50 after, grants entry to the dance party starting at 9:30 p.m., along with drinks and dessert. The first 50 guests will receive a Silk Screen T-shirt.
Go to www.showclix.com/event/SilkScreenOpeningNightGala to buy tickets.
The festival, a showcase of Asian films and filmmakers with origins in Asian cultures, will open the next day, April 26, with the Oscar-nominated “Omar,” from Palestine, and close with the Japanese film “Mourning Recipe.” In between will be movies from around the globe, including the United States.
Films will be shown at the Regent Square Theater, 1035 S. Braddock Ave.; Pittsburgh Filmmakers’ Melwood Screening Room and Classroom, 477 Melwood Ave.; and Carnegie Museum of Natural History Earth Theater, 4400 Forbes Ave. (use portal entry, rear of museum). Waterworks Cinemas will screen one movie, also.
Opening night movie, $20, and closing night, $15. A four-ticket pack is $30 and eight tickets, $60, also at showclix.com.
Regular tickets, $10 or $5 for students, available at the box office before screenings. Scheduled to be shown:
• “A Respectable Family” (Iran/France) — Director Massoud Bakhshi’s semi-autobiographical tale about a man haunted by the Iran-Iraq War. Screens at 7 p.m. April 29, repeats 7 p.m. May 2, both at Regent Square Theater.
• “A Time in Quchi” (Taiwan) — Drama about a 10-year-old boy from Taipei who is sent, with his sister, to rural Quchi for the summer to live with their elderly widowed grandfather in the wake of their parents’ divorce. 1 p.m. April 27, Melwood; repeats 2 p.m. April 30, Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Earth Theater.
• “Ankhon Dekhi” (India) — Tale of the spiritual and ontological awakening of an ordinary man whose tenement flat in crowded old Delhi is cramped with people and personal dramas. The 55-year-old vows to believe only what he sees with his own eyes and experiences in his own life. 1:30 p.m. April 27, repeats 4:30 p.m. May 3, both Regent Square.
• “Apur Panchali” (India) — Real-life story inspired by Subir Banerjee, the child actor who played Apu in Satyajit Ray’s “Pather Panchali.” 9 p.m. April 29, repeats 2 p.m. May 4, both Regent Square.
• “Beyond All Boundaries” (India) — Audience favorite, about three cricket players from poor backgrounds, at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. Paired with short, “Kush.” 4:30 p.m. April 27, repeats 7 p.m. May 2, both Melwood.
• “Bonta” (China/USA) — Animated sci-fi adventure. 2 p.m. April 27, repeats 6 p.m. May 1, both Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
• “Confession of Murder” (South Korea) — A young man emerges from nowhere and publishes a biography in which he admits to killing 10 women. The statute of limitations has expired, but a detective whose fiancee was a victim thinks the confessed killer is a con man and tries to find the truth. 8 p.m. April 30, repeats 9:30 p.m. May 2, both Melwood.
• “Garden of Words” (Japan) — When a young high school student decides to skip school one day in favor of sketching in a rainy garden, he has no idea how much his life will change when he encounters a young woman in this animated film from Makoto Shinkai. Paired with short, “Cheong.” 7 p.m. April 26, repeats 9 p.m. April 28, both Melwood.
• “Hank & Asha” (USA) — Romantic comedy about an Indian woman studying in Prague and a lonely New Yorker who begin an unconventional video correspondence and must decide if they should meet. 4:30 p.m. April 26, repeats 7:30 p.m. May 3, both Melwood.
• “Hide and Seek” (South Korea) — The stable life of a successful businessman is upended by strange, inexplicable visions and a spike in people squatting in homes in this indie horror-mystery hit. 7 p.m. April 27, repeats 9 p.m. May 1, both Melwood.
• “Jadoo” (UK/India) — Story of two brothers, both great chefs, who fall out so badly that they rip the family recipe book in half and set up rival restaurants. Twenty years later, a daughter is determined to persuade them to cook for her wedding banquet — together. 2 p.m. April 26, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, repeats 7 p.m. May 1 at Waterworks Cinemas.
• “Liar’s Dice” (India) — Against the advice of their elders, a woman and her young daughter leave their home to search for a husband and father who has not been heard from in five months. On the road, the pair finds an unlikely ally in a free-spirited wanderer. 4 p.m. April 27, repeats 7 p.m. April 30, both Regent Square.
• “Mourning Recipe” (Japan) — A deeply depressed widower and his daughter, whose marriage is failing, are given a “recipe book” for a happy life from their late loved one in this family drama. 5 p.m. May 4, Regent Square.
• “Norte, The End of History” (Philippines) — With a running time of 250 minutes, this story of a man wrongly jailed for murder while the real killer roams free is a loose, partial adaptation of “Crime and Punishment.” 2 p.m. May 3, Melwood.
• “Omar” (Palestine/Belgium) — Oscar-nominated thriller about betrayal, suspected and real. Omar is a Palestinian baker who routinely climbs over the separation wall to see his girlfriend. Arrested after the killing of an Israeli soldier and tricked into an admission of guilt by association, he agrees to work as an informant. But is he playing his Israeli handler or will he betray his cause? 7 p.m. April 26, Regent Square.
• “Red Obsession” (Australia) — Russell Crowe narrates this documentary exploring the obsession with Bordeaux by a booming and voracious Chinese wine market. 6:30 p.m. May 1, repeats 2 p.m. May 4, both Melwood.
• “Sake-Bomb” (USA/Japan) — A sarcastic and self-deprecating Asian-American must take his naive Japanese cousin on a road trip along the California coast to find his ex-girlfriend. Title also means a cocktail created by dropping a shot of sake into a pint of beer. 9:30 p.m. May 1, repeats 9:30 p.m. May 3, both Regent Square.
• “The Haumana” (USA) — Teenage boys begin a journey of self-discovery through their mastery of the hula dance and participate in a competition doubling as a rite of passage. 6 p.m. April 29, Melwood; repeats 3 p.m. May 4 at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
• “Things Left Behind” (USA/Japan/Canada) — Linda Hoaglund explores the transformative power of the first major international art exhibition devoted to the atomic bomb. It presented Ishiuchi Miyako’s color prints of clothing and personal effects that once belonged to the people of Hiroshima. 2 p.m. May 2, repeats 2 p.m. May 3, both Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
• “Touch of the Light” (Taiwan) — Drama based on the real-life experiences of blind Taiwanese piano prodigy Huang Yu-Siang, who portrays himself, and his encounter with an aspiring dancer. Paired with short, “Cheong.” 7 p.m. April 28, Melwood; repeats 1:30 p.m. May 1, at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
• “Trap Street” (China) — Kafkaesque story of a young, impressionable teen working for a digital mapping and surveying company. He falls for a mysterious young woman and becomes tangled in a web of lies, deceit and privacy issues. 8:30 p.m. April 29 at Melwood, repeats 7 p.m. May 3, Regent Square.
• “Unforgiven” (Japan) — Ken Watanabe plays an aging samurai in a Japanese adaptation of Clint Eastwood’s 1992 Oscar winner. The story has been moved to Japan in the late 19th century. 9:30 p.m. April 26, repeats 7:30 p.m. April 28, both Regent Square.
• “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” (Japan) — An eager but untalented group of wannabe filmmakers discover they may be able to shoot a classic battle between yakuzas in what the director calls “an action film about the love of 35mm.” 9:30 p.m. May 2 at Regent Square; repeats 9:30 p.m. May 3, Melwood.
• “With You, Without You” (Sri Lanka) — A modern adaptation of Dostoevsky’s short story “The Meek One.” A chance encounter between two people in post-war Sri Lanka leads to romance and cultural complications. 2 p.m. April 26, repeats 9:15 p.m. April 30, both Regent Square.
• “Zinda Bhaag” (Pakistan) — Pakistan’s Oscar submission for 2013 foreign language film about three friends in Lahore trying to escape from their everyday lives and looking westward for something more than mere existence. 7 p.m. May 1, repeats 2 p.m. May 3, both Regent Square.
See www.silkscreenfestival.org for more details.
Check out this link:
Check out all the references (some obvious, some obscure) that Quentin Tarantino pulled from in making “Kill Bill“…
VARIETY: The Hong Kong slate is heavier on action and crime thrillers and perhaps less full of martial arts than at some recent editions of AFM. That is probably a reflection of the genres of films that Hong Kong filmmakers can produce where they still have an edge over their mainland Chinese counterparts.
Typifying this is Universe Intl.’s “White Storm,” which marks a particularly high-profile outing for one of the territory’s most reliable commercial directors, Benny Chan.
In a similar vein is Distribution Workshop’s in-production thriller “Overheard 3” by “Infernal Affairs” duo Alan Mak and Felix Chong. Also making a market debut is DW’s psychological thriller “Insanity” pairing H.K.’s Andy Lau with China star Wang Xiaoming.
The Lau vehicle “Firestorm,” about a cop who oversteps the legal and moral boundaries in his pursuit of a gang, is directed by first-timer Alan Yuen and produced by veteran Bill Kong for his Edko Films studio.
For buyers seeking hand-to-hand combat Edko is also offering “Rise of the Legend,” an attempt to revive the 1980s Wong Fei Hung franchise.
And for combat of a different kind, Golden Scene is pitching “The Way We Dance,” featuring a battle between two breakdance teams.
Check out this link:
When Quentin Tarantino made an unexpected visit to the 18th Busan International Film Festival earlier this month, he took time to have a chat with South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho about the timeless inspiration of genre movies and Asian cinema.
“I came here quite impulsively actually,” said Tarantino, who arrived from an awards ceremony in Macau. He recalled watching Bong’s “The Host” for the first time and being so “blown away” he later screened it along with “Memories of Murder” at a retro theater he owns in Los Angeles.
“Of all the filmmakers out there in the last 20 years, he has something that [1970s] Spielberg has. There is this level of entertainment and comedy in his films. [‘The Host’ and ‘Memories of Murder’] are both masterpieces… great in their own way,” he said. Bong on the other hand, vividly remembers the shock of seeing “Pulp Fiction” as a film student in 1994.
The two cineastes may have met only recently — and have since hung out talking about movies over drinks — but have a lot in common. Both grew up watching genre movies and now make their own respective brand of genre films with the same stock of actors.
Tarantino believes genre movies allow you to tap into your inner child.
“There are things that, since the time you’re a kid, [you] associate with going to the movies. As you get older and sophisticated your taste can change and you can actually appreciate a wide variety of movies. But when you’re drawn to genre movies you’re drawn to that excitement of those initial movie experiences,” he said.
As a kid in the 1970s and ’80s the filmmaker was a fan of Hong Kong and Taiwanese martial arts films, Japanese sci-fi or monster movies, and Italian spaghetti westerns and cop movies. Among them, Ishiro Honda, the creator of Japanese monster films, “is one of the greatest directors of science fiction along with Spielberg.” Honda is best known for his kaiju (monster) and tokusatsu (special effects) films such as the Godzilla series, but is also known for his collaborations with film director Akira Kurosawa. Tarantino also learned about “the inhuman brutality” of Japan’s occupation of Korea through the work of Hong Kong-based Korean director Huang Feng “even before the history books.”
Though he continues to learn from the great masters, however, he tries to reinvent the genre in his own way. “I love Sergio Leone… but they’re movies that are a product of their times. I’m trying to do the 2013 perspective.”
Likewise, Bong, also a fan of 1970s films, says he tries to bring a Korean twist to the genre. “In the U.S., scientists, soldiers, and muscular superheroes fight against monsters, but in [‘The Host’] a Korean family, a messed up, really idiotic one at that, fights the monster.”
Tarantino agreed, saying, “It’s funny because the whole idea that a family, not just any family, but a weird, [messed] up family like in ‘The Host’ would be the stars is unfathomable in the U.S. or any country. That is recreating the genre.”
Check out this link: