Interview by – Triptayan Chatterjee
Qianzi, welcome to the cult critic. I would like to ask you what prompted you to make the film on exodus from Mexico to us. do you have any particular experience?
The theme of the film is to evaluate the strength of faith and humanity in a border-crossing scenario.
Being shocked by the staggering number of unnamed corpses that are found near the US – Mexico border, I decided to go further with it and develop a story focusing on these illegal immigrants. The facts of people leaving home and even sacrificing their lives to reach a land where their happiness is uncertain always make me think. I didn’t want to simply imitate the whole journey without getting closer to these people. By focusing the camera at the toughest moment that the immigrants have to face before turning into an ” unnamed corpse”, I intended to show the driven power that pushed them moving forward despite the life-threatening environment. What decision do they have to make when their faith cannot carry them moving forward? I hope my unique perspective will distinguish this film from other border films and give the audience new thoughts on such an issue.
How would you like to explain the emotional changes of your characters, as it has always been the focal point of your film, particularly in the film one in thousand?
In a film of duo protagonists, there is usually a person who has a more obvious arc of becoming a hero. In the film, the boy has the biggest emotional changes. He does not trust people easily, let alone believing in god. But because of Elena, the woman who he saved in the beginning scene, he let down his guard against the third man that they saved, which unexpectedly caused his stuff being stolen.
Having to face this moment of crisis of trust, he had left no choice but to keep ongoing. Being on the edge of giving up, he turned his self-doubt into anger against Elena’s blinding faith in god. When realizing Elena had no intention to give him up, he accepted Elena’s help and eventually put himself together and carried on. Compared with the silent distance between these two characters at the beginning, they developed a bond and helped each other in the end. The strength of faith can be seen through his emotional changes.
How many days you had to spend for the entire shooting? did you have any lighting arrangement or it was shot in natural light only?
We spent 5 days on the entire shooting. For the opening scene, we had to play with the lighting more creatively due to the limitation of the location. We had a 6K to imitate the moonlight which gave out overall background light. We also let our extras and crew hold the flashlights or even 1k in the background just to make the chasing scene as realistic as possible. For the rest of the film, we shot most of the scenes in natural lights.
The hat has been frequently used in this film. every character had taken the hat once in special moments. is there any significance of the hat in this film?
That is a good observation! The hat is the “key” of the change of character relationships. The first time we saw the hat was when they encountered the third man and saved him; the second time was when the boy’s stuff got stolen which triggered his frustration——he tried to trust people but got himself into bigger trouble; the third time was when he was touched by Elena’s kindness, he offered her the only thing he has, the hat, indicating his unspoken appreciation and the improvement of their relationship.
Meanwhile, as you may notice, the boy is collecting useful stuff left by others along the way. When he is left alone in the end, he carries Elena’s bag as well the third man’s hat and moves forward. It’s like walking forward with the hope of those countless lost spirits who sacrifice on the way of reaching their dreamland.
From script writing to editing, which stage of the film has made you mostly satisfied?
I’d say the primary production is the most challenging and satisfying part, for this film particularly. Since we shot the film in a desert park, the crew and cast had to work in the blazing hot environment for hours in the middle of nowhere. We managed to overcome so many issues on set that were beyond imagination, for example carrying heavy equipment while climbing onto the top of the hill just to get the best shot, calling the motel owner to rescue us at 9 pm when all our cars got stuck in the sand, etc.
But when I finally finished the shoot, there was a moment of feeling nothing else could stop me from making this film happen. It was truly satisfying.
Do you have any planning to make a film on the same theme in more details?
I am willing to continue exploring the depth on the border films. It’d be great if it’s based on a real-life event which grabs people’s attention significantly or something that’s not being discussed before. As the border-crossing issue becomes more sensitive nowadays, us directors-want to tell the story from a more unique and smarter angle.
Would you please tell us about your upcoming projects?
I am working on a thriller and a coming to age story simultaneously. Both of them are short films with very distinguished and outstanding lead female characters. Both ideas have great potential to be developed into feature-length projects and target different audience and festivals. I am very excited about bringing them onto the screening soon.
Qianzi, what message would you like to deliver for the coming generation filmmakers?
With the development of high-tech devices, everyone can become a filmmaker with their smartphone.
However, whether you are making a film that focuses more on personal expression or delivering a message that reflects our social problems, you must remember how you want your story to be like on the screen. The audience will only remember the feeling that the film triggers inside them. When you choose film-making as a way to communicate with others, keep in mind that the audience’s feeling plays an important role in the completion of the film.
Other than that, just enjoy it!