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Interview Clara Law, Eddie Fong: Chinese Diaspora & Global Dream
Chinese Diaspora 4/4 - Page 4
Author(s) : Gina Marchetti
Date : 26/8/2010
Type(s) : Interview
 Intext Links  
Movies :
Floating Life
The Other 1/2 & The Other 1/2
< Previous
Page 3 : Autumn Moon, 1992
Next >
Page 5 : LikeA Dream, 2009

Gina Marchetti: Maybe we should move on to Floating Life? This is your first film set primarily in Australia, but also in Germany and Hong Kong. So you have three specific locations--plus references to a plot of land in the mainland. I’m curious how did you design the production to flow this way and why did you choose Australia? I’m also wondering how you picked Germany as the other point on the compass. How do all the points on the compass fit together for you in the film?

Clara Law’s Floating Life


The film is about an extended family. It’s very much a diaspora film in that regard. It’s not about two locations. It’s about several locations that connect a family on three different continents. The film is structured using their homes. The physical locations, the domestic locations are very important. There are battles over the homes --who belongs and who doesn’t belong in the home. It also deals with how ethnicity fits into the "home." How are you Chinese in Germany? How are you Chinese in Australia? How are you Chinese in Hong Kong? And, how does that relate to the continuation of your family? How are the family relations the same? Or how do they change as you move from one location to the other? I’m wondering if you could talk about those specific locations and how you deciding on them in particular for this film.

Clara Law: I suppose it’s quite a common thing that happens to lots of us Chinese families in Hong Kong. The family members are dispersed all over the world. We wanted to create that landscape and show how one family member could be in the Southern hemisphere, and one member would be in Hong Kong still, and then one member would be in Europe or America. It doesn’t really matter. I suppose being in Germany creates a little bit more tension. Because somehow Germany makes you feel a little bit more… people are more hostile and can be kind of militant. You have that kind of feeling. So, we just had to pick one location for... we wanted to make sense of how they were dispersed. That was how we picked the locations.

As you said earlier, the film has this structure with a house in Australia, a house in Hong Kong, a house in Germany. The house is such an important thing in Chinese tradition. For instance, if you’re going to get married, your parents say, "Buy a house." Or, if you’re going to work, you’d save up money as soon as you can to get a house. In the parents’ eyes, if their children each have a house, then they are secure and they are safe. It’s all about this Chinese way of planting a root somewhere, so the house and where it is play a very important part.

Gina Marchetti: There is a sequence in Floating Life dealing with abortion. This is a very emotional sequence, and I think it is unique. I can think of no other film that has an abortion scene highlighting the reaction of the father. For me, it’s a pivotal scene in the film. The film has many comic and tragic moments. This is the moment where there’s this meeting of these very different moods. I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about the sequence.
Eddie Fong: I think this is the film in which we moved for the first time to another area apart from the Chinese diaspora or the migration theme. We were going into the theme of existence. So that’s why after we finished this film, when people were talking about the experience of immigrants, but, then, for us, it’s more than that. Actually this is our creative process - part of our creative process is that we move on to another area rather than stay with the… Clara’s first film is about immigration already. It’s called The Other Half and the Other Half. So, with Floating Life, we should stop. Ok. That’s enough. We can’t offer anymore on this theme. This film is a new beginning of a new phase for us.

Clara Law: We began the theme of finding a place in the world, what is meant by existence, what it means for our relationship, our being in the world, with the world, the connection. It is about planting your root in a foreign land and how finally to find the ground that you can really put your foot on and say, "This is the place I really want to stay and this will be my country, my adopted country." But, at the same time, it’s more than that, because it is also about how to live, what it means to exist. Existence means your relationship with your relatives, your friends and your ancestors. The only way out for the parents and what the parents were showing to the kids was that you can only be a full person if you have this connection in this horizontal as well as this vertical (direction). It can’t be just one. It has to be both. Maybe if you have both, you can find what it means to exist.

From that we tried to move one step further, to explore further the theme of existence, what it is our being with the world, what it meant – basically the questions of "who am I, what am I?" - hence for example the heartache, the anxiety, the fear of Kar Ming when he was faced with the dead foetus - the big hit on the head for him, the realization of his own mortality when he was faced with the death of his own flesh and blood, all interconnected with the collection of his grandfather's bones.


Floating Life

Eddie Fong: I think, during that period of time, we started to read more of the new Confucianism. Literature, I mean. We were influenced by this philosophy. In a way this is part of it (the film) I can see that. Even though now I don’t like the scene, I think it’s the influence of that period. For us, it’s still quite immature in terms of a film. But it’s part of the process.
Gina Marchetti: Why don’t you like the scene?
Eddie Fong: Part of the reason is that the actor is not Chinese-speaking. We have that restriction, because we made this film in Australia. Because of the funding, we can only use Australian actors. But, there are not that many experienced Chinese-speaking actors or ethnic Chinese actors in Australia. We had limited choices. It’s strange in the film with that family, we have to ask the non Chinese-speaking actors to speak Chinese, and ask the not-really-good-English-speaking Chinese to speak English. It’s totally chaotic. It was hard for Clara to direct. So, because of that, we can think of ways to improve this scene just by watching it.
Clara Law: I think from watching it just then. I found out I don’t feel happy with it because it was too obvious. It was trying to say too much. That was what we’ve been trying to do: as we move to the new phase, we are trying to hold back a bit more and let it show itself rather than pushing it to the audience. That’s what we are trying to do. That has been a new thing. We can talk about it later. I think it’s still Eddie’s kind of dialogue, but I think it could be better.
Eddie Fong: I can rewrite it.
Nancy Tong: How much of this film is autobiographical? Or based on biographical incidents of your two families’ immigration?
Clara Law: I think this is more about the feeling; the emotion is authentic. There was no actual autobiographical thing in it. But, of course, my family too has been dispersed all over the world. I have a sister in Germany, a brother that lives in Hong Kong, while we moved to Australia. But, other than that, there’s nothing. Let’s take the abortion scene. I wouldn’t think my brother would do that. I don’t know. If that happens, I bet he wouldn’t tell me.
Eddie Fong: There is one scene which is autobiographical.
Clara Law: The only one. This is when my little brother was trying to take a sneak peak at a next door neighbor --a girl. That was the only thing.
Eddie Fong: No. There is another one. Grandpa’s bones.
Clara Law: Yes, the bones. In Hong Kong, when your relative has been buried for over seven years, because a coffin takes up too much space, you have to collect the bones and put them in a container and then put it in the cemetery. I’ve had that experience. So, that was in the film. But, other than that, what I think is more true is the fact that a lot of Chinese families, or even non-Chinese families, have this experience of trying to find your roots and your own place in a foreign land. When we showed this film in different festivals, people, who could be Scottish or African, not necessarily Chinese people, would come to me and say "this is exactly what happened in my family." That was actually what the response was.

Since we worked on Farewell China , we did a lot of research on what it’s like for Chinese to live in a foreign place. Like my own experience, a student in London for a few years and then working in New York, and living in Australia. With all of these accumulations of experiences and stories we have heard, we were trying to seek and find the truth, or what we feel was the truth at that time, to make up the story.

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