An Interview with Hu Xinyu (Director)
My Family Album
Q: I heard that right from the start of your documentary filmmaking career, you focused only on your family. Why was that?
HX: The reason I started filming my family is because I wanted to create a modern version of a moving picture. Death marks the ending of every person’s life. However, we can relive some of those moments spent together by watching these images. It’s like making a photo album. That’s my motivation. I am always thinking about what it means to live. I’m asking myself, “What is the purpose of life, where did we come from, and where are we going?” I want to express these thoughts through my works.
Q: Watching your film, I got the impression that you took great care in the dramatic expressions, such as how you closed up on your sister’s white hair and how you used music. Do you have any comments on that?
HX: Well, if you thought that my work contains lots of dramatic expressions, I’m afraid you are trying to review it as if it is a narrative film. I know there are many Chinese films that are internationally acclaimed in this way. Personally, I am embarrassed that my works are taken in that way. I feel like I falsified my testimony. I would like to think that I filmed exactly what I experienced, in the way I experienced it. I’d like to see my works being internationally acclaimed too, but not at the cost of turning them into narrative films by embedding lots of dramatic expressions. I took a close up of my sister’s white hair simply to let the audience see that my sister is a 43-year-old middle aged lady. I used many different types of close-ups because I wanted to vividly show the facial expressions. I wanted to convey real emotions without caring too much about whether I was able to make an objective documentary. Actually, I do not believe that documentaries can ever be objective.
I have always wanted my works to be a conglomeration of many personal thoughts and I think I have succeeded in doing so. I try to express different and opposing opinions through my works. This has been my foundational thought in my career. In making these works, my opinions are also getting shared. It is like letting my thoughts and opinions have a seat in my works. By doing this, I am able to throw a question to the audience that will let them second-guess their objective opinions. I wish to continue making these types of works, just the way I have been making them.
Q: Are you going to continue making films about your family?
HX: I suppose so. I think about picking other themes, but ultimately the large theme still is family. I will probably expand my field from only my immediate family to families that will be joining our family through marriages. I will continue filming my family until the day I die. I can say that this whole thing is my form of art performance; filming until the last moments of my family’s lives and leaving records in the form of video.
Actually, I am uncomfortable when people view this work as a film. This is a video, not a film. I am proud to say that I am creating video art. I actually look down on films because films contain many lies. I think films ignore real texture. This is why I want to stick to making video art.
(Compiled by Nishioka Hiroko)
Interviewers: Nishioka Hiroko, Kumagai Junko / Interpreter: Akiyama Tamako / Translator: Paul Mikaelsen
Photography: Kaneko Yuji / Video: Kaneko Yuji / 2007-10-05