An Interview with Zhong Jian (Director)
Q: Why did you decide to make a film about accompanying your mother on a visit to her hometown?
ZJ: Because I wanted to understand history through family. After all, she has a soft spot for her hometown, although she usually lives in the convenience of the city. I wanted to understand the experiences of her generation through my mother and her stories, and to connect that with the next generation through the film.
Also, I wanted to film my mother as a symbol, rather than as my actual mother. My mother’s generation went through a lot of experiences, such as the Cultural Revolution. Through portraying my mother as a symbol, I wanted to depict a presence that would represent many people of the same generation.
Q: Your mother’s vibrancy in the film is wonderful, and the good relationship that you have with her came through in the film.
ZJ: In everyday life, my mother is like a friend with whom I can discuss everything and anything. We don’t hide anything from each other, and when something happens, we support and encourage each other. So, I think that there wasn’t any change to our relationship or closeness because of the film. A lot of things change in the world, but I hope that the affection between parent and child, and love within a family remain the same.
Q: In the last scene your mother says “I’ve told my secrets, now you speak.” That was very memorable.
ZJ: Actually, this year I made a version of the film as a present for my mother. I included what she asked me to say, and gave it to her. I was happy because she was really pleased.
There are two meanings to the film—a gift to my mother, and a gift to my future children. For example, after I get married and my children are twenty, I can show my children the house where I was raised, my mother, and myself at this time. Also, when my mother is old she can watch this piece and recall the things she talked about and what happened, even if she has forgotten. I want to use film to convey the important things between generations and link them together.
Q: So filmmaking forms bridges among generations.
ZJ: Yes, I want to film my immediate life and surroundings. Because I think this is the first step to understanding the world. Knowing yourself, and the things that are close at hand. I want to start there, and keep going.
In China now, there are extremes in people’s awareness of history, particularly among young people. I think this has a lot to do with the experience of the Cultural Revolution, but you have people who completely negate the period as being no good, and other people who know absolutely nothing about it. It is common to go along without knowing what really happened in history, but I want to preserve, recall and record things that are vanishing, that are negated and won’t come back again. There are definitely a lot more good things from the several thousand years of Chinese history that have been preserved through the present. I am making films to connect this with the next generation.
(Compiled by Takayama Marie)
Interviewers: Takayama Marie, Tanno Emi / Interpreter: Higuchi Yuko
Photography: Suzuki Takafumi / Video: Shishido Kojiro / 2005-10-10