Of all the Hong Kong filmmakers present at this year's Berlin Film Festival, Kit Hung is probably the least known. He's not as prominent as Dante Lam Chiu-yin or Ivy Ho - who are to make their bow in Germany with Beast Stalker and Claustrophobia respectively - but the 31-year-old's low public profile belies multiple appearances at international film festivals.
A graduate of the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Hung (right) won a Special Jury Prize at De Drake Film Festival in Ghent, Belgium, with his second film, I Am Not What You Want, and his third, Buffering, took the same award at the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Turin.
Soundless Wind Chime, which will make its world premiere at the German capital tomorrow, is backed by Hong Kong, mainland Chinese and Swiss funds. It is set partly in Hong Kong and partly in Switzerland.
The story revolves around Ricky (played by mainland actor Lu Yulai), a Beijing-born waiter whose stormy relationship with petty criminal Pascal (Swiss actor Bernhand Bulling) grinds to a halt when the latter dies in an accident. Stricken with grief, Ricky heads off to Lucerne to mourn his lover, only to discover new love in the form of Ueli (also played by Bulling), a man who shares Pascal's looks but of a drastically different temperament to his personality.
What was the main inspiration behind this film?
The inspiration came from my personal experience a few years ago, when some important people in my life passed away.
Soundless Wind Chime is a condensation of my feelings, about the unwillingness to let the beloved leave you forever, and the time it takes to fully recognise the meaning of 'ashes to ashes, dust to dust'.
Your project revolves around a Chinese man and his Swiss lover. Was it your intention to examine cross-cultural relationships?
Most my films have a very strong cross-cultural element, and how people communicate in the modern world. Growing up in Hong Kong, a city which was once a British colony, allows me to understand the characteristics of an east-meet-west experience. And being a homosexual in Hong Kong also allows me to pay attention to social issues about the minority groups.
The cross-cultural element is also reflected in my choice of actors for Soundless Wind Chime: Lu Yulai is a Chinese who already had some experience working on European film sets, and Bernhard Bulling is a Venezuelan-born Swiss.
In the film, Ricky goes to his lover's homeland to find solace rather than returning home to grieve. Why was this? What is 'home'?
The term 'home' to me equals a sense of belonging. While I was in the US, I was always very conscious about my identity as an 'alien'. After I finished my studies in the US, I came back to Hong Kong and people treated me like an ABC [American-born Chinese], and I had difficulty immersing myself into bonds with my old friends here.
In Switzerland, I was always treated as a foreigner. I have a very strong feeling of rootlessness, and I cannot find any place to call home. I think this is why Ricky is travelling around looking for that non-existent sense of belonging.
What are the major challenges in completing Soundless Wind Chime?
The major challenge is in balancing myself between the different roles I have in the production. I am both the director and a producer; the role as director have a lot of conflicts with the producer: for example, the producer is the one to manage the money, yet the director is the one who always wants to spend more to achieve his aesthetic level.
When shooting with a small crew in Switzerland, I even had to organise beds, meals and transport.
How does your experience in making short films prepare you in making Soundless Wind Chime?
Soundless Wind Chime reflects some of the elements I have developed in my work, for example the use of music, the way of using cuts to link different spaces, sudden changes of atmosphere, or the use of silent, body languages. It is a process of trial and error.