Flora Lau lit up the BFI London Film Festival with her short work back in 2008, and now she is back with her feature film directorial debut Bends: a movie that looks at social and economic aspects of Hong Kong.
We caught up with the director and writer while she was at the London film festival to chat about the new film, the inspiration behind it and the response the film has been receiving.
- Bends is your new film so can you tell me a little about it?
The movie is about two people from two social and economic backgrounds: one from China and one from Hong Kong. But they have a strange co-dependent relationship that develops into a friendship.
- You have penned the screenplay as well as being in the director’s chair, so where did the idea for the story come from?
I wanted to make a film about the current situation in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a country that changes quite a lot: it was a British colony when I was growing up, and now it is not. It keeps on changing. But I wanted to show the country how it is now.
So I have chosen two very different perspectives; one character thinks that Hong Kong is not as glorious as its past, and the other still sees Hong Kong as a hope.
- The movie sees you tackle financial, social and emotional issues as well as the different layers of society and how some are better off than others. So what drew you to these ideas and issues –some of them are quite profound?
The economic issue has been seen around the world in the last few year, everyone is taking about the have ad have-nots. There have been a lot of protests and I think that there is a general imbalance in the word.
Hong Kong is a consumerism and capitalistic city and it really does have characters like this living in the city. I wanted to make the film because I had a lot of questions and I wanted to find the answers. Through the film I wanted to discuss those issues.
- Would you say that these issues are not openly discussed in Hong Kong?
Yeah, I think so. I think it is hard to have that balance when everything is so controlled by the rich. On top of that we also have China being our big economical powerhouse now: there is a relationship building with China and I do think that that I quite interesting.
- Bend marks your feature film directorial debut, so how did you find the transition away from shorts?
One of the big differences is the length of working: I spent two years writing this, and that was an interesting experience in itself. Having to work on something for so long and having to stick with it is quite a mental process.
Being able to work with such talented people on your first feature was a really special experience; I really do have a new family now.
- I wanted to talk to you about your cast. Carina Lau and Chen Kun take on the roles of Anna and Fai, so what were you looking for when you were casting these two central characters?
Because my style of making film is quite subtle I needed very experienced actors to portray these characters in a very subtle way: it is down to every little detail, even to the way that you blink your eye. That detail can be better achieved with more dynamic actors like Carina and Chen.
- These are two characters with any layers and are incredibly complex, so how did you find working with Carina and Chen as you developed these characters? Was it a very collaborative process?
Yeah. I talked to them extensively about the backgrounds of their characters and have them really observe the lives of these people. The characters were based on people that I found living on the streets of Hong Kong.
So it was down to me researching about these people and telling them about small details such as how they eat, how they move and how they talk.
- You have said already that they are very experienced actors, so what do you feel that they brought to these roles?
They worked quite differently. Carina is very experienced and it is someone that she could find in her surroundings: so she knows this kind of character quite well.
So with her own experience and her observation of these kinds of people, she was able to bring a lot to the film. She is also very good with physical direction: her range is very good.
With Chen he is someone who thinks a lot of the characters that he plays: I took him to meet people who were going through a similar situation to Fai. He was able to build a very extensive background to his character through that.
- This film explores different aspect of rich and poor, not just in the story but also visually. The film was shot in Hong Kong, so is that a difficult place to shoot?
As long as you don’t disrupt it is actually quite easy. You have to notify the police, of course. My production crew is extremely fast and efficient: the crew in Hong Kong are excellent and can block off people very quickly. So it was easy to work.
- So how have you found the response to the film?
It has been very positive. I am always very surprised at the questions that I get asked from Q&A’s as they are also deep and sophisticated: it shows that they really have paid attention to the film. That has been really nice to see all over the world.
- You have enjoyed success at the London Film Festival before, back in 2008, so what is it like to be back?
It is great to be here as the film journey really started here for me: I went to school here. To be able to come back with a feature film, talk to people ad see familiar faces is really great.
- How important is a film festival like London for first time filmmakers but also female filmmakers?
Incredibly important. There are not enough female filmmakers in the world. I think that we bring a different perspective than the boys and I really don’t understand why there aren’t more. To be able to have worldwide exposure at the London Film Festival really helps.
- Finally, what is next for you?
I am exploring a couple of different ideas and am just starting to go on the next journey of writing y next film.
Tagged in BFI London Film Festival