Director Rita Hui Nga-shu's first feature film Dead Slowly, about a policeman who becomes obsessed with a female suspect in a food poisoning case, will be the only Hong Kong entrant for the New Currents award at the Pusan International Film Festival that begins on Thursday. Hui - who teaches video art at the City University of Hong Kong - first found fame when her 15-minute video, Ah Ming, won her the Distinguished Award at the Hong Kong Independent Short Film & Video Awards in 1996. The director's successive works have been shown in short video festivals at home and overseas. Dead Slowly makes its Hong Kong premiere at next month's Hong Kong Asian Independent Film Festival.
How did Dead Slowly come into being?
Mei, one of the main characters [the suspect], appeared in my last project Red, a short video about three women and their love lives. The original idea was to further discuss these relationships in a feature-length film. I worked out a crime thriller structure to connect the characters as I found crime investigators very interesting. They are trapped in the past as they are investigating what happened before while everyone else around them keeps moving forward. They won't be free until the case is closed.
How have your experiences at film festivals shaped your perspective as a filmmaker?
The past festivals I went to all focused on short videos. Pusan is the first feature-length film festival I'm entering. At past festivals, I was able to exchange insights with other filmmakers and video artists. Since we all came from different cultures, it helped me broaden my horizons.
What's the difference between making short videos and feature length films?
Mainly the way we spend our money. The budget for this film is less than HK$200,000. To cut back on expenses, I filmed in a single location, the former Fanling Magistracy. I managed to set up scenes for a police interrogation room, hospital ward and apartment all inside the building. It only took me 13 days, no more than 10 hours a day, to finish filming. I was pregnant for three months when we started the filming, but I didn't tell anyone. So yes, the filming was pretty tough.
What inspired you to pursue filmmaking?
My father loves films and he showed me plenty when I was young. Wong Kar-wai's Days of Being Wild and Ashes of Time are my favourites. I never thought about becoming a filmmaker then. I didn't realise that I could actually be one until my first work, Ah Ming, won an award. Now video and film have become the media to express my artistic visions. I want to explore more possibilities in this area. I have produced one video every one or two years since graduation. I hope to keep up the pace.
Dead Slowly is an Arts Development Council-backed project. How has this assistance helped your career?
I wouldn't be making these films without the funding; it's as simple as that. But the funding can't cover everything we need. We have to cut back on expenses, such as crew members, settings and such. Our core crew involves about five people but we have a lot of student helpers.
I hope more resources can be put toward promoting Hong Kong's independent productions in international film festivals. That would help publicise independent films and build a diversified film industry here.
What are your next projects?
I have an ongoing documentary project called Rabbit Travelogue. It's mostly sound recording accompanied with photography and videos. The main character is a fictional rabbit that goes around Hong Kong to document the happenings in town. We did one recording on the day Queen's Pier was demolished and another one on the same day this year to commemorate its one year anniversary. I still am not too sure where this project is going.
I'm also writing another horror story, inspired by Chinese fiction and ink paintings. I want to experiment on long shots and wide shots instead of close-ups in the next project to create a seemingly peaceful ambience, which is in fact thrilling deep down. I want to adopt more oriental aesthetics in my coming films.