An Interview with Gu Tao (Director)
In the Rainforest, the Distant Bay of a Moose of Aoluguya
Q: In your trilogy, the first film, Aoluguya, Aoluguya . . . (2007), examines the Ewenki minority as a whole, while your second film, Yuguo and His Mother (2011), focuses on the bonds between a parent and child. Why did you choose to follow Weijia in this third film?
GT: Weijia is a man who feels a very strong need to express himself. He possesses a unique sensibility which can be seen in his paintings and poems, and I believe it is inspired by nature. But there is also something inside him that is disconsolate and sorrowful, and I was very instinctively drawn to that part of him. I myself feel a strong sense of loneliness when I’m in the city, but when I return to my hometown, I still feel out of place. Weijia and I feel something similar, and that is what motivated me to make this documentary.
Q: What was your intention in juxtaposing Weijia’s character with the image of a moose of Aoluguya?
GT: I used the moose of Aoluguya to represent Weijia because they have a similar temperament. The moose of Aoluguya is one of the most powerful creatures in the forest. It is a very proud and very sensitive animal. It possesses its own authority. However, the Daxinganling ecosystem is collapsing, and the numbers of these moose are dwindling from year to year. No living moose of Aoluguya appears in this film, but there is one scene that shows the skeletal remains of an animal’s head, which is the head of one of these moose. In this film, the moose of Aoluguya takes on a symbolic role. Since the time of their forefathers, the Ewenki people have lived in the mountains as reindeer herders. That is their traditional way of life. However, since the implementation of China’s ecological migration policy, the environment where they can maintain this way of life has grown smaller. As Weijia says in the film, when a people lose their way of life, they are driven to extinction. He and the others drink as a way of suppressing the deep sorrow for which they have no outlet.
Q: When Weijia left Aoluguya to live on Hainan Island, he almost seemed to lose his identity on the way. How did it feel to film him like this?
GT: When Weijia moved to Hainan Island, I accompanied him to film this development, but I believed in my heart that he would one day make his way back north again. Some people wished him well and told him he would “have a good life,” but I didn’t believe this. Weijia’s sensibilities come from the forest, and he instinctively possesses something inside him that is akin to the Aoluguya sky, or the Aoluguya forest. It was very difficult for me to film him on Hainan Island, because it was like seeing a moose of Aoluguya in a rainforest. The proud baying was no longer anywhere to be heard, and all that was left was the echo of a sad and distant cry. The way in which Weijia was brought to live on Hainan Island was very similar to what the Chinese government did to the Ewenki tribe. The government thought it was helping the Ewenki people, but it wasn’t. The government gave them nice houses, thinking that it would help them to live in an environment with a good infrastructure, just like Weijia’s girlfriend thought she would try to keep Weijia from drinking and help him to live a “normal” life. But you can’t just ignore a person’s values because they happen to be different from yours. It was difficult for Weijia to accept the things that others were doing to “help” him, and it was this that led to the breakdown of his relationship in the end.
(Compiled by Kato Noriko)
Interviewers: Kato Noriko, Shibasaki Narumi / Interpreter: Nakayama Hiroki / Translator: Kato Lisa Somers
Photography: Matsushita Sho / Video: Matsushita Sho / 2013-10-15