An Interview with Cui Zhaosong (Director)
Desiring Freedom, Questioning Freedom
Q: How did you come to film this indie rock singer Gunmaker?
CZ: I went around shooting different bands and solo musicians three years ago, when I first thought of filming the situation of the Chinese rock scene. But I found the atmosphere far from what I had imagined. Later a friend sent me Gunmaker’s music and lyrics through the Chinese social media app WeChat. I identified with it and was strongly attracted. To tell the truth, I also wanted to become a musician. Gunmaker’s lyrics were close to what I myself wanted to sing, and I felt as if I’d found myself in him. On his side, he graciously accepted to be filmed.
Q: Did you know about Gunmaker’s bandmate Lao-na who had, a year before your filming started, killed himself because of disease and financial difficulties?
CZ: I didn’t know anything about Lao-na until Gunmaker told me. Gunmaker himself had only met Lao-na twice, so it was astonishing to see the strong ties they had formed. In the film, you see him chatting like old friends with Lao-na’s partner and visiting the grave with Lao-na’s father. Musicians intensify their bonds through exchange on social media, without necessarily having to meet often in person. If you ask whether Lao-na’s popularity was because of his anti-establishment views, I would say it was also his character that drew many people to befriend him.
Q: I was shocked to learn how the police could enter his house on a house search and how ordinary people’s houses were being violently destroyed. Gunmaker says “China is going in a bad direction” and immigrates to America. Are there many Chinese people who move overseas? Gunmaker seems to have a strong trust and affection for America, claiming that “America will protect world peace.” Does the Chinese general public think so?
CZ: I’m not sure about the exact numbers of overseas migration, but I do think it’s quite high. Gunmaker’s infatuation with America is a personal one. Perhaps some democracy activists do believe that “a strong nation like the United States should lead the world,” but opinions differ. I don’t think the general public in China has a strong love for America.
The Chinese have upheld and carried over millennia the moral philosophy to kowtow to the emperor. They also believe in defending autocracy. It was out of criticism for this tendency that Gunmaker decided to forsake China.
Q: While portraying how Gunmaker and Lao-na critique the government, you also include comments from student leaders of the Tiananmen Square uprising that sound like a review and negation of the past. They say “I no longer feel that the democratization movement has the most value,” and “The choices then are now in the past.” It seems like you are criticizing voices upholding anti-authoritarianism. Was this your intention?
CZ: These were intentional choices. My aim in making films, including this one, is not to criticize the government. Anyone can easily criticize the government, but that in itself is not so meaningful. My constant question is, why did the government become like that? That is something we should be thinking about.
(Compiled by Oshita Yumi)
Interviewers: Oshita Yumi, Tadera Saeko / Interpreter: Higuchi Yuko / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Tokunaga Ayano / Video: Niizeki Shigenori / 2019-10-11