An Interview with Su Qing, Mina (Directors)
The Richness of a Society That Accepts Others
Q: About that imageless, sound-only last scene . . . .
Mina (M): It was extremely difficult to film a family who crowds a deaf relative. In a certain sense, the reality their deaf children face is a cruel thing, and as family it was not something they wanted filmed. Jian Ming’s mother absolutely refused to allow the last scene in particular to be filmed. So, there is only sound, no video. The tale of a fruitless love was not the most important thing we wanted to communicate. We wanted to make clear a reality where the deaf are not given the right to speak. Even though we shortened the last conversation from an hour to ten minutes, those ten minutes alone are enough to bore and tire the audience. It’s tiring and we thought it would express the helplessness felt by the deaf. It was a bold attempt to make the audience feel their pain. Faced with verbal attacks from his family and the people around him, even though he can speak, the protagonist Jian Ming is unable to respond freely—this is his reality. I wanted viewers to understand the position of those who have had their “words” taken away from them by the authority of “words.”
Q: What is the meaning behind the title White Tower?
M: With the change toward a market-oriented economy, the values of China and the Chinese are changing greatly. On the surface, it looks as though the Chinese economy is on the upturn, but the lives of the deaf are even harsher than in the past. The original political meaning of the White Tower, which used to be the revolutionary memorial tower in the area where they lived, has been forgotten and is now only recognized as a white-colored tower. The title expresses these two changes together.
Q: From this film, I sense very strong desire from the two of you to film the world of the deaf.
Su Qing: The reality in China is that the socially weak have no right to speak. Wealth is concentrated in the physically unimpaired, and for example, just because they cannot hear, the deaf are ostracized from mainstream society. Even though there are in reality more than twenty million deaf people in China, there are very few people interested in sign language. The physically unimpaired don’t understand the deaf. Even if they are interested in the deaf, they have no idea how to communicate with them. Through this work, we first wanted to express the way the deaf are cast aside and show their world. And we wanted to change the values of the physically unimpaired. Sign language is a unique language and not easily learned. But I think it is necessary for the physically unimpaired and the deaf to connect their mutual worlds through communication. I wanted to lend them a hand.
M: It is important for the deaf and the physically unimpaired to recognize and accept their differences. It is also important for society to increase its tolerance, and to create a prosperous society that can accept new things. We wanted to show that sign language is also a language and a subculture, not only the sympathetic view that the deaf need to be saved because they are weak. In White Tower we wanted to portray not only the painful lives of the deaf, but the richness of their language and conversation. And the most important thing is how to communicate with someone different from yourself. I think this is a major theme throughout the world. I think it’s unfortunate that White Tower was unable to portray that fully, and at the same time, it is the topic I will consider in the future. In our next piece, we have thought about and are preparing a film in which we interview how older deaf people have come to view China’s history.
(Compiled by Endo Akiko)
Interviewers: Endo Akiko, Tanno Emi / Interpreter: Akiyama Tamako
Photography: Saito Kenta / Video: Oyama Daisuke / 2005-10-08