An Interview with Hsu Hui-ju (Director)
To Dream of Family
Q: How did you come up with the idea of hiring these workers as actors and giving them roles?
HH: I’ve been making documentaries that record actual conditions for a long time now, but I’ve harbored doubts about whether or not they really reflect unfiltered truths. Because of that, I thought that I would be able to see truths that I previously had not by changing my approach this time, and having temporary workers act out the roles of temporary workers. Whenever I told them, “I’m going to film you now,” and pointed the camera at them, they would become very nervous and could not perform very well. So I changed tack, and asked them, “Please try acting this kind of thing out.” When I did that, they became, in contrast, very relaxed, and showed me their true selves.
Q: In addition to the three-person pseudo-family, there is a fourth person, a man, who appears in the film. Did you also have him act out a role during filming?
HH: I initially planned to show just the three-person family, but I heard from the security guards that there were homeless people in the abandoned factory where we were filming, and I thought to put that in the film. As for why I chose to cast him, it was because he had had a part-time job with the Kaohsiung film commission, which had handled location scouting for us this time around. A part-time job means, effectively, to be a temporary worker. When he was showing us around the filming location, he told us various things about himself, so I thought I would include that in the film. There were sleeping areas made by actual homeless people at the filming site, so I used those as his residence.
Q: I remember getting a strange feeling from the idea of a three-person family and a homeless man living in the same space. What did you want each of them to portray?
HH: At first, I thought I would shoot a portrait of a family made up of a man, a woman, and their child. But as I grew closer to the cast members, I learned that each of them had come from families that had fallen apart, and I began to realize that it was not a coincidence. The fourth member also had a similarly estranged family, and I began to wonder if this was not some problem in the fabric of society. That is, through each of them, I began to see that this was something shared by the poor living at the bottom of society.
Q: I was really struck by the scene where you project images of the places the three family members want to visit behind them. What was your intention behind this?
HH: All we knew about them were their lifestyles and their wages. I wanted them to talk about their dreams in that scene because unfortunately, those dreams will probably never be realized. By having them eat meals together and enjoy each other’s company like a family, we built up a virtual world in this film. Their realities are far from fortunate, but in this virtual world, they performed as a warm family.
Q: What are your thoughts on your involvement with the cast members?
HH: My goal in making films is to closely observe and think about humans, regardless of their age, gender, or work. I want to figure out myself how humans live. The cast’s circumstances are extremely underprivileged. But if they are able to feel the warmth of family, or hold onto dreams, then they might somehow be able to carry on. Even if the other side of those dreams turns out to be empty, if they could have those things even for a moment, they will be able to live on.
(Compiled by Sugawara Mayu)
Interviewers: Sugawara Mayu, Inotani Yoshika / Interpreter: Higuchi Yuko / Translator: Joelle Nazzicone
Photography: Masuda Haruna / Video: Kusunose Kaori / 2019-10-12