A bright future for independent film
Despite its utterly brooding tone, independent film director Yu Lik-wai insists his new film All Tomorrow's Parties is optimistic.
Set in 2050, this surreal sci-fi tells the tragic tale of the Xie brothers, Xiaozhuai (Diao Yinan) and Xiaomian (Zhao Weiwei), who are captured by the authoritarian Gui Dao sect and sent to a re-education camp.
In such in such a deprived environment relationships do not flourish, but with the fall of the sect things change. However, the fabric of society begins to fall apart.
The plot might sound like a political statement, but Yu, 37, thinks otherwise.
'I'm an optimist. I believe that a real future should be started from scratch,' he says. 'The story is dark, but according to Buddhism, which dominates Asian religious beliefs, pessimism is the key agenda, and the basis for optimism.
'If everything is being cleaned up, how should we start all over again? The question I want to pose here is: how should Asians think about their future all over again?'
This is the eternal conundrum, and even a film as beautifully shot and deep as All Tomorrow's Parties cannot find the answer to the question. But at least Yu has raised the topic, perhaps inspired by his filmmaking experiences on the mainland.
Over the past few years, Yu has spent most of his time in Beijing. Apart from his directorial debut Love Will Tear Us Apart (1999), which was shown at many international film festivals including the prestigious Cannes, most of his works have been collaborations with Jia Zhang-ke, the pioneer of Chinese independent cinema. On the mainland, independent cinema means illegal cinema.
Having studied cinematography in Belgium, Yu returned to Hong Kong in 1994. After winning the top award at the Hong Kong Independent Film and Video Awards for his documentary Neon Goddess, he teamed up with Jia as cinematographer on critically acclaimed films such as Xiao Wu (1998), Platform (2000) and Unknown Pleasure (2002).
His films have taken the former advertising executive to the world stage. Now Yu is a familiar name at international film festivals. All Tomorrow's Parties has been screened at industry events in Rotterdam, Toronto and Pusan, South Korea.
Yu sees himself a very lucky person. After all, support, both emotional and financial, are hard to find, especially in an industry that is full of politics.
From his experience with Love Will Tear Us Apart, he learned that making independent films is not very different from making mainstream features, and that they belong to what he calls the 'same ecological system'.
'When I made my first feature I had a lot of help from filmmakers like Stanley Kwan and Leung,' he says.
'People have an impression that independent cinema has no relation to the film industry, but they are wrong. Without such an industry, no one can afford to make films. Both independent and commercial productions need to draw on the same pool of talent. Independent films are not amateur films.'
All Tomorrow's Parties is on at Hong Kong Arts Centre.