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Interview Clara Law, Eddie Fong: Chinese Diaspora & Global Dream
Chinese Diaspora 3/4 - Page 3
Author(s) : Gina Marchetti
Date : 26/8/2010
Type(s) : Interview
 Intext Links  
People :
Timothy Yip Kam Tim
Movies :
Autumn Moon
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
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Page 2 : The Law/Fong partnership
Next >
Page 4 : Floating Life, 1996

Gina Marchetti: Let’s move on to Autumn Moon. Although it is set in Hong Kong, it’s a film about migration. It is about an adolescent girl who is getting ready to leave Hong Kong to join her family in Canada. She happens to meet a Japanese tourist whose name is Tokio (Tokyo). It’s a good touch. I always remember his name because of that. Tokio is on vacation, taking lots and lots of pictures and video images of Hong Kong. He and the girl meet, and they talk about their different views of what culture is, what food is, and their romances, as two drifting people. I’m wondering if you can tell us how you came up with the idea of looking at the years before the handover and experiences of Hong Kong people before 1997 through the eyes of a Japanese tourist. How and why?

Li Pui Wai and Masatoshi Nagase in Autumn Moon

Clara Law: I really can’t nail it down to how and why. What I remember very clearly was that during that time, whenever I went to restaurants, I would find young kids playing with their PlayStations. They would be having a big family dinner, and they would just play with their PlayStations, while the adults were talking. There would be no communication. Whenever there is any festivity, like the moon festival (Mid-Autumn Festival), I would find that things have changed, moved on, from paper lanterns to lanterns made of plastic, no more lighting of candles, just have the light bulb inside. I think a lot of things are changing and had changed, and things are no longer what they were before. I find that quite disturbing. I was wondering what would happen to these young kids that grow up in such different ways. Then, Hong Kong has the Handover (1997). I don’t know what’s going to happen. Somehow it’s that kind of thing that was in my mind when we were trying to work on the script. I don’t know how we came up with this Japanese guy.
Eddie Fong : It’s mainly because of financing; the Japanese investors approached us. They wanted us to make a one-hour episode for their video release of a series of detective stories. Six episodes with this main character played by Nagase, solving problems in six Asian countries and one would be set in Hong Kong. But we counter-proposed that we do a feature film.
Clara Law: It would be impossible for six different directors to make a character consistent, this private detective solving problems in different countries. I don’t think it will be interesting. We said, "We can do this. We can have Nagase because I’m sure he’d be a great actor; but, we’ll just make a different story that has nothing to do with the private detective idea." He would come to Hong Kong, and we’d find something for him to do. It’ll be more than 60 minutes. We can use the same amount of money, but we will make it into a feature film, and they will have their home video, or even a longer one. They can make it into one and a half videos. They will also have their feature. So that was the background behind it. But, of course, we have got one great actor and we can just develop our own story.
Eddie Fong: I think sometimes the financing will change the creative dynamics. The reason why we make films in Hong Kong is because we like films. For both of us, Tarkovsky is our favorite director. Ozu is our favorite director. But how can you make a film like what Tarkovsky did? How do you make a film like Ozu did? There’s no market there. Because Hong Kong films are so market-driven and there’s no government funding like in the Soviet Union. We just have to stick with the market. We just try to write the script that is appealing to investors, and, at the same time, we have our own input into the film that we’d enjoy. This time, because of this Japanese money, there is no attachment, which means that they allow us to do whatever we want. But, at the same time, all we need to do is to deliver the film within the budget. So, actually this is the first time we have all the creative freedom to do something that we really want to do in our whole life.
Clara Law: It was a bit like doing student film, because what we had was a crew with the members in their first role in a certain position. For example, the cinematographer is someone who was a lighting guy before. He got his chance to be a cinematographer now. The production designer was actually Timmy Yip (Tim Yip), who probably some of you will know, who later on became the production designer for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that won the Oscar. It was his first time being a production designer. Everyone was promoted to do something they love to do, but hadn’t had a chance to do. There was a great rapport on set and everyone was trying to put in the best that they could. There was no problem with time. Everyday we could go as long as we wanted to. We only had to work within a certain numbers of days because the equipment we hired is limited to a certain period. It’s an external kind of restriction, but, in your spirit, in your heart, you can do what you want. That was the kind of energy we had when we were doing the film.
Staci Ford: I’m going to ask the food question. Food is very important in a lot of your films, but in this film, particularly, there is a range of statements made about food. Besides the McDonald scene, Grandma cooking is also very important. When you were thinking about plot and character development, how does food fit in?
Clara Law: In Chinese culture, food is something very important. More importantly, it’s an expression of love. If you’d traveled for a long time and you come home, your mom would say, "I’ll cook you a great dinner." It’s that kind of thing. Food is an association with family warmth, love and comfort. I suppose you know for us, that’s what it means. Food from McDonald’s is a totally different thing. It represents a totally different thing. Grandma’s cooking, for the young girl, is just grandma’s cooking; but for the guy, whose whole life is traveling and looking for good food, this is actually real food for him. That’s the kind of juxtaposition we are trying to get from McDonald’s and grandma’s food. Food probably plays different roles in our different films. But, in this case, it was what it’s meant to be.

Choi Siu Wan, Masatoshi Nagase and Li Pui Wai in Autumn Moon

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