Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Interview with Qi Yang director A Gentle Night

Award winning film maker Qi Yang
Qi Yang is a film maker who brings real life tales to the screen, taking events straight from today's headlines and turning them into viscerally packed cinematic stories. His latest short film "A Gentle Night"  a gritty story of a distraught mother living every parents worse nightmare and is currently receiving rave reviews. His heart wrenching  tale won Qi the Palme D'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival making him the first Chinese film maker to be awarded this prestigious and much coveted prize. When I spoke with Qi I take the opportunity to congratulate him on his historic win at Cannes.

Thank you very much! It was a great honour for me also. But I think it’s in the past now, so I have been trying to forget about it.

What went through your mind as you heard your name called out?

I wasn’t really expecting it! I genuinely thought another film was going to win. So, I totally blanked out, I just stood there, didn’t know what to do for a very long time. Until my editor Carlo grabbed me and hugged me, then I realised I had to hug them.

Again congratualtions, well deserved. So tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from and how did you get into filmmaking?

I was born and raised in a small Chinese city called Changzhou. I went to Australia to pursue higher education after high school and unfortunately, I did both the Bachelor’s degree and Masters in filmmaking. So, I pretty much know nothing outside of filmmaking. And even filmmaking was kind of a random pick. I didn’t have any background in filmmaking. I was trained to paint my entire childhood, but I never wanted to be a painter, so when I had the chance to go overseas, I thought I really liked watching films, so I picked filmmaking, without the slightest idea what filmmaking is.

Interesting. What sort of stories do you like to tell?

The stories that mostly happened around me or in my life and the ones that I don’t understand. Filmmaking is sort of a way for me to understand myself and the world around me.

What drew you to the real story behind “A Gentle Night”?

The story was inspired by a report I saw in a local newspaper. In a small local community, there had been a few kids who had gone missing, then a few months later, more kids went missing. And none of them had been found at the time. Then a few months later, a report says all of them suddenly returned, without any explanation. I was really intrigued by this news, I kept wondering why it happened and what happened before and after the kids went missing. So those reports and my fascination stayed with me for a very long time and it came back to me again when I wanted to make a new film. So naturally, I decided to work on this.

Shuxian Li is distraught mother Cai
It certainly is an emotional story and your star Shuxian Li gives a very powerful performance. How were you able to get such emotion from her?

It was all her work. Even though she isn’t a professional actress, she was so amazing, that I didn’t really have to do much. Most of the time she gets what I want and what I say. Working with her was just so effortless. I don’t know how she was able to do it, but I am glad I cast her in the film.

She did a fantastic job. How were you able to tap into that all too very real fear every parent dreads?

Well, like what I said before, I always take real sorties from my life. Growing up I was a very rebellious kid and I had ‘ran away’ a few times”. So, I sort of borrowed a lot from my own experience.

Aside from winning the Palme D’Or what have been some of the highlights of your career so far?

Just being able to keep making films and writing scripts.

To date, your work has mainly consisted of short films. Any plans to break into feature-length projects?

I’m in lock-down mode finishing my feature script at the moment. So hopefully soon!

Who in the world of film would you most like to work with?

Isabelle Huppert!!!

The French film star, that would be awesome. What is the appeal, for you as a filmmaker, of short films as a storytelling medium?

A short film is always a form of an experiment for me. I never set out to make a masterpiece or even a “film”. I always see it as a chance to exercise or experiment something I want to do but never done. It’s a relatively inexpensive chance to fail.

So what do you have lined up in the future?

I’m finishing my feature script and hoping it will happen soon. And maybe one more short before the feature.

I look forward to it. Thank you Qi for taking the time for this interview and again congratulations on winning the Palme D'Or.  I wish you the best with your feature length film and future projects.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

[Film Review] - Women and Wine

Writer and Director Liv Karin Dhalstrom 
Starring Marit Adeceide Andreassen, Turid Gunnes, Jeanne Boe
Running Time 20 Minutes.

When Turid organises a party for her best friend Grete's 50th Birthday she suddenly finds that they might not be as close as they once were. Fearing that they are drifting apart Turid does something that threatens her bond of friendship.

In a funny and lighthearted fashion Dhalstrom explores a deeply rooted fear for those who dread losing their friends through distance or growing apart in mid-life. Telling the story from Turid's point of view we get caught up in her anxiety from feeling pushed out of the birthday celebrations she organised to her jealousy of Grete's apparent closeness to their other friend Signe. Following her narrative Dahlstrom makes us feel Turid's dispair amplifying subtly her increasing feelings of being pushed away. The scene in the car where a masked Signe and Turid make Grete guess who they are touches on this poignantly, whilst the birthday girl easily recognises Signe's voice she fails to recognise her lifelong friend Turid. This carries effectively to the party itself and we can't help but feel bad for Turid, even in her overreaction when the party doesn't quite go to plan. 

Marti Andreassen is delightful to watch bringing to the fore Turid's emotional vulnerability with a comic touch that is almost like a comedy of errors. Her performance makes Turid so likable that we still feel fer her even after she takes her desperate action to save her friendship with Grete. What makes this compelling viewing is the feeling that we have all been there and done equally stupid things out of fear and anxiety. Where the film switches tact somewhat is the tense moment between Turid and Grete, and here Turid Gunnes gives a strong performance in particular her reaction to Turid's betrayal of confidence, powerfully played out during Grete and Turid's recreation of the a comedy skit from their younger days.

Dhalstrom manages to get incredible performances from his talented cast drawing in the audience making us feel what the players feel and keeping the performances from going over the top. "Women and Wine" is a delightful story with some laughs, and a little tension leading to a heart breaking yet warm ending, a powerful relate-able film of friendship and the dreaded mid life crisis.