On the Way to the Sea
CANADA, CHINA / 2010 / Chinese / B&W / Blu-ray (HD) / 20 min
Director, Script, Editing, Sound: Gu Tao
Photography: Yu Fish Xun, Pan Feng, Yang Aonan
Music: Francis Dhomont, Robert Normandeau, Milliseconde Topographie
Producer: Yang Aonan
Source: GreenGround Productions
After the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, the director visits his hometown in Wenchuan county in Sichuan province to see his aging parents, who have been forced to move countless times since the quake. While the director and his parents reminisce over their lost home, his camera keeps rolling, capturing the fresh scars on the land left behind by the quake. The immediate images and the pitiful cries of people, the inorganic quality of the heavy machinery, the photo albums left behind—these fragments of reality, which condense all the senses, are burned into his 8mm film. A horse careens toward the sea, acting as if it were a repository for the souls of the land and people.
[Director’s Statement] On May 12, 2008, the biggest earthquake in Chinese history occurred in my home area, Wenchuan. According to official polls, 69,159 lost their lives, 374,141 were seriously injured, and 17,469 are still considered to be missing. My parents are survivors of this earthquake.
In November 2008, I went back to China with a Super 8 film camera to document my parents’ homeless situation and other survivors’ conditions in the earthquake-stricken region.
Over a year and a half of hand process and visual-sonic experimentation, On the Way to the Sea took form as a 20-minute experimental documentary. In this film, beyond presenting the dreams, memories, and sensory perceptions of two aged earthquake survivors, I sought to expand the theme of “disaster” into an investigation into the fragile human condition and the spiritual homelessness that results when frequent natural disasters become part of human life in our day.
Gu Tao initiated his artistic endeavors in 1998 as an experimental radio host in China, and soon after began exploring a variety of creative media. His stage directorial debut was the avant-garde poetic drama Evenfall YA LA SO (2003). He also participated in the production of the documentary Jade Green Station (2002) and the documentary drama Foggy Valley (2003). Both films were presented in the “Yunnan Visual Forum in Yamagata” program in YIDFF 2005. Upon his arrival in Canada, his cinematic work shifted towards visual and conceptual experimentation through the film medium. His silent abstract film Butterfly Dream (2007) was officially selected by numerous international film festivals. In 2010, he completed his experimental documentary On the Way to the Sea, which has been officially selected by the Toronto International Film Festival, the Vancouver International Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the International Short Film Festival Clermont-Ferrand, and numerous other international film festivals. The presentation of On the Way to the Sea at YIDFF 2011 is the film’s Asia premiere.