The Night of Filmmaking: Chan Hau Chun
Date: 5th August, 2022
Venue: Jao Tsung-I Academy Theatre
Mentor: Chan Hau Chun (Director)
Moderator: Jill Li (Documentary Director)
Chan Hau Chun is a videographer and independent filmmaker who graduated from the School of Creative Media of the City University of Hong Kong. Her 32+4 was shortlisted in the documentary category of the 2015 Golden Horse Festival and Awards and won the Principal Prize in the International Category of the 61st International Short Film Festival Oberhausen.
32+4 | Cantonese and Teochew dialect | 32 mins
The director spent her childhood living apart from her family and knew very little about its history. This changed when she graduated from college and decided to face her parents with her camera in a search for answers to questions about her past.
《32+4》 | 粵語及潮洲話 | 32分鐘
Heatroom | Cantonese and Putonghua | 76 mins
In an old part of Hong Kong lies an old building, and within it countless little rooms. Demarcated merely by wooden panels, each room houses one family: a subdivided flat, with shared toilet-kitchens, sultry, impermeable, where hundreds live.
The film weaves together images taken over the last few years, documenting residents of subdivided flats within one building. After the social movement in Hong Kong and in coping with the global pandemic, the seemingly mundane everyday lives of these residents are in fact full of underlying tension. Within the cramped and rundown building, some people move out after just half a month, some stay for thirty years; some have grown up here, some have passed away in the rooms… What does our society look like when seen through these steady long takes?
《熱室 Heatroom》 | 粵語及普通話 | 76分鐘
In the evening of imagery, we screened Chan’s 32+4 and Heatroom.
32+4 was created when Chan was trying to develop an idea for her final project at the school. 32+4 is divided into several chapters that tell the story based on the director’s relationship with her family. Her narrative voice out of the lens, her calm and thorny questions to her mother, and the collage of words, old photographs, and drawings, and voiceless narrations through subtitles are extraordinarily impressive. There were also sounds of her mother chopping up meat in the kitchen and the knife marks on her bedroom door that her angry father left behind. The shots with a feeling of peeping at an “uncle,” her mother’s second husband living in the same building, are also outstanding.
In contrast to the closeness in 32+4, Heatroom features a distant visual effect. The cameras were left in the subdivided units to record every speck of the resident’s life. The residents have their own spirits and pleasures. Some endure the pains in their bodies; some are satisfied with their life; others are interested in the meaning of life and philosophical musings. The cameras in the cramped units record people coming and going and their ever-going life.
Chan had a post-screening dialogue with documentary director Jill Li who spent eight years producing her Lost Course. After the dialogue, the two documentary directors had an in-depth discussion with the campers.
The Night of Filmmaking Q&A Session
1. How and why were Chan choose to film with gazing and collaging your scenes in 32+4?
After Chan decided to film about her family, her father accepted the camera, her mother rejected, while her uncle always kept his distance. Chan’s questioning behind the camera was mild but deep down in her heart there’s full of fear, especially when facing her uncle whom she absolutely knew nothing about. She reflected herself not mature enough in facing all these by the time she filmed. Therefore, those gazing and silent subtitling picked from diaries were the way she kept herself with distance to her own experience.
2. In the progress of filming Heatroom, did the director ever think of what’s the meaning of life? Why could people in the subdivided flats still live under such a worse condition?
As filmmakers sometimes we can’t avoid the sense of privilege when we film. Before look into the core on why these people think that they live well and what truly supporting them, we’d better keep an open mind, throw away all the judgements and social phenomenon and look into people only.
3. What is the purpose of filming documentary, reflecting the fact, satisfying audience, or self satisfactory?
When filming 32+4, Chan reflected that besides its final year project purpose, to a large extent it’s also a journey in self-healing and self satisfactory. 32+4 has influenced her family so much that her filming started with the feeling of unfairness, hatred and revenge. However, it gradually changed to a reflection between her family and herself when the film uncover the truths. It helped a lot in improving their relationship too.
4. How can we choose between the ethical dilemma of keep rolling or stop rolling when we touch the privacy of people being filmed?
Jill and Chan held distinct views on this dilemma. Jill thought that camera should hold no subjective point of view but simply recording everything. One have to decide whether they should be kept when editing. Whereas, Chan would rather make decision at the moment of filming. Whenever it crosses Chan’s boundary, she will choose not to film and not to include those truths into clips.
5. How is truth exist in documentary?
Chan stated that she has asked herself before as well: it that really enough for director to simply take her camera and film? Every time of rolling, movement is actually all violent and subjective. It is unavoidable for filmmakers to interrupt and influence the “truth” afterwards. Documentaries are not scripted, perhaps sometimes we need to throw away the logic of filming, follow the moment when the reality keeps changing when filming.
6. When would we know we finish filming a documentary?
Regarding Heatroom, Chan confessed that the question is full of unknowns, as the reality of the future has not yet happened. She thought of finishing her filming in 2018, but the society changed wildly in 2019, and the epidemic came in 2020. Therefore, footages simply accumulated. On the other hand, maybe the moment will come when filmmaker is tired, when the desire of creation is satisfied. As reality always move onwards, and our work can always be better. Yet, life combines with many other parts expect filming. Should we really prioritise filming as top one in our life would also be the question Chan keeps asking herself.
Jill’s documentary Lost Course, which is the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival – Best Documentary, spent eight years in filming. She planned to finish filming when all the press left and lives backed to normal. The moment came almost like an instinct: it might come before another life cycle start, it might come when we want to prove our thought by filming a bit longer of time.
2. 在拍攝《熱室 Heatroom》時，導演有思考過生存的意義嗎？生活條件是如此的惡劣，板間房的人是為甚麼繼續生存著？