YIDFF 2003 New Asian Currents
Hard Good Life
An Interview with Hsu Hui-ju

When Each Good Life Becomes Harmonious

Q: What prompted you to make this film?

HH: I had always wanted to film my father. I don’t really know why, but I think I just wanted to look at someone that I am close to through the camera. And when I was given the assignment at school to make a film, that was what really prompted me to start. I began by interviewing my father many times about topics like when I was born and when my mother passed away, etc. I think I was expecting some kind of story to be born from these interviews. But the answers that my father gave me turned out to be somewhat predictable. I started to think, what was the point in filming my father and having these conversations about things we mutually acknowledge? In the midst of this doubt, one day very late at night, I saw my father smoking a cigarette in the darkness while he was on one of his patrols and thought, this is it! It was a scene that made me feel my father’s loneliness, which might also be my own loneliness, or perhaps it was the loneliness that everyone feels as part of being human. At the same time I was able to feel that people guard their own lives by drawing close to simple emotions and little pockets of warmth. It made me feel I had gotten closer to the real truth about life. This film is a record of the life of a father as seen by his daughter.

Q: By viewing someone you are close to through the camera eye, were you able to discover something new?

HH: I observed my father’s lifestyle through shooting. What I found there was a complete world which operated according to my father’s own unique value system, and in it, he was living out what was to him, a good life. In the past I used to think that there was no way that my father was content with living the way he did, and tried to intervene on his behalf. However, the results of those interventions were not necessarily what he considered to be good living. Now that I have finished shooting, I hope from the bottom of my heart that my father will live out what he feels is a good life in his own way.

Q: In a film that hardly contained any dialogue between you and your father, the scene in which your father speaks to you in front of the camera after a visit to your mother’s grave was very memorable.

HH: To tell you the truth, originally I had no intention of refering to my mother’s death in this film and had planned only to objectively illustrate the parallel individual lives of a father and daughter. However, after shooting that scene the lives which were depicted as being parallel, intersected. From that point on, I think my stance on making this film changed.

Q: You and your father’s dogs appear a lot in the film as well.

HH: I think that our individual relationships with the dogs, as well as the dogs’ relationships with each other, are in some sense symbolic of the relationship between my father and I. For example, there is a scene in which my father is furiously scrubbing a puppy while bathing it (everyone was laughing in this scene). I think that the way in which he was handling the puppy reflects in a small way how he handled me when I was a child. I think the last scene with the adult dog and the puppy also overlaps with my father and I.

Q: Can you tell me why you chose this title? (The original Chinese title means “a record of zassai.”)

HH: Zassai refers to something that my father frequently eats in the film, and is a hodgepodge of various things all boiled together. Because my father lives alone, he eats this almost everyday because it’s easy for him to just throw a bunch of things into one pot. There really is no specific name for it, and it might be something that actually tastes quite awful. And yet it contains all of the necessary nutrients. I think that that is symbolic of life itself. So many different things get mixed into life and it’s impossible to express in words how that tastes. But that’s what life is.

(Compiled by Yokota Yuri)

Interviewers: Yokota Yuri, Hashimoto Yuko / Interpreter: Akiyama Tamako
Photography: Matsunaga Yoshiyuki / Video: Sonobe Mamiko / 2003-10-13