An Interview with Sun Yueling (Director)
Both Movies and Life Happen by Chance
Q: The smiling faces in the movie left a very strong impression on me. What did you do to help build up a relationship between the Tibetan lamas and the village people?
SY: I didn’t do anything in particular to build a relationship. I simply spent time with them, lived with them, and reflected. The most important thing was realizing that there are no differences between me and them. I always kept that in mind. I’m of the Han race, and the people I’m documenting are Tibetan, you know. Of course there are differences of lifestyle and religion, but spiritually, in our hearts, I felt there were no differences as all.
Q: How did they react to you joining in their pilgrimage?
SY: They didn’t resist my recording of their pilgrimage at all. For me as well, it didn’t really feel like I was recording them. They’re religious people, but they don’t resist things based on their religious belief. In the end I think they were able to accept me exactly because of their beliefs. Even when I started shooting, there was no resistance in particular. I was able to integrate into their group without a problem.
Q: Why made you decide to film the Tibetan lamas?
SY: It wasn’t so much of a conscious decision—I started shooting when I was moved by their fun, lively manner. It’s not a work with a single policy or theme, or one trying to complete a single clear objective or argue a certain point. I think our rather coincidental meeting was very important for that. This kind of thinking has its roots in Buddhist doctrine.
Q: Watching the avalanche scene, I didn’t get a very strong feeling of disturbance or shaking from the image.
SY: Actually, I was so surprised that I started shaking. At the same time, the lamas were dancing below the place where the avalanche occurred. When I saw that it surprised me even more. Somehow they knew that an avalanche was going to occur.
Q: In a sense, they looked like they were happy about it.
SY: It was very unlikely that they would encounter an avalanche. It was a great coincidence. For the lamas, they felt they had connected spiritually with the mountains, that’s why they seemed so happy. Also humans are a part of nature. It feels as if they are able to converse with nature through the occurrence of the avalanche.
Q: You didn’t use any narration.
SY: Using a method that relies on words, subtitles or narration tends to explain the process of what’s happening. In the case of paintings, it would be like showing the process of painting. With paintings, I think the expression is in showing the completed work. Pulling the story along with narration is the same thing as showing the method of drawing. In the end, that’s where the difference from reality starts to arise. By inserting an explanation, the method of expression paradoxically becomes less direct. I believe that it’s more truthful to show things with images instead.
(Compiled by Moriyama Seiya)
Interviewers: Moriyama Seiya, Nishiya Mariko / Interpreter: Endo Nakako
Photography: Murayama Hideaki / Video: Yamaguchi Mika / 2005-10-09