A Big Road is nominated in the Silver Screen Awards at this year’s SIFF. How do you feel and what do you think are your chances? What is it like having your film being represented as a local film?
I am a little surprised, actually. But, no, I don’t have a clue how those three individuals on the Jury will think of mine or any other film. I am glad there was something familiar enough in the film for the Festival to represent it as local. It may have been filmed in Shanghai with a Shanghai cast and crew, but ultimately, it is a story about my family.
Talk about the production of the film?
It was wonderful. We shot over fifteen days, amidst some of the worst snowstorms to hit China in decades. Can you imagine? In the villages, there was no heating even in the homes! I couldn’t bear to end the last day though. The pleasure was all too short. I am definitely going to try to do another feature.
What were the easiest/ most difficult/ most memorable about making this film?
Easiest? Having everyone commit to the story - they could see themselves in it. Difficult? The cold. What I found most memorable was the experience of a group of strangers having to commit to trusting each other and sharing their expertise immediately to create a story around characters that stayed faithful to what I had envisioned – and succeeded in doing just that. We made art together based on good faith and surprised ourselves by finding out that it was such a rewarding experience!
How was the experience like working in Shanghai? How has it been a life-changing experience?
Like I said, wonderful. I guess it was life-changing in the sense that it was my first feature film and it might have set me on a new path and shown me a new direction.
You have been in the industry for almost 20 years as an actor, director, filmmaker and art director. If given a choice, would you have taken a different path?
There is not a single day that I do not ask myself that question. I wished I had taken care of my family more. Perhaps, that’s why I was quite clear that I wanted the World Premiere to be in Singapore. Maybe, it was my way of acknowledging the role that they have played over these twenty…no, actually more than thirty years…I started performing when I was four and never stopped.
What directions are Singapore films moving towards?
Exploratory. Individual. Gutsy.
What are your upcoming projects?
Something set in Singapore. In the year 1972.
What advice do you have for all budding local filmmakers out there?
This is my first feature film. I’m hardly in a position to give advice.
What is it you are trying to convey with A Big Road? Where did that inspiration come from?
The way I see my family. The inspiration came from being, in limbo, in a solitary situation, for a prolonged period of time. I could, stop, quieten down and hear my own voice.
What do you hope audiences take away upon leaving the theatre?
A sense of peace.
Could I also check how I should credit your day job, as well as your age?
I am the Artistic Director of One Kind Theatre. And. I age well.
By John Li