Made in China tells the story about François, a young French-Chinese photographer who hasn’t set foot in Paris’ Chinatown or even talked to his father Meng since their violent dispute 10 years ago. He avoids all questions about his origins and even pretends he was adopted. Things change the day he learns he is going to be a father.
Conceived by and starring Fréderic Chau, the film opened this year's French Film Festival, which is part of Voilah France Singapore Festival. The Vietnam-born French actor of Chinese-Cambodian descent tells us what the film is really about.
What were the easiest and most difficult things about acting in Made in China?
Made in China is based on my personal background as an Asian who grew up abroad. Working on a film that is close to me was both the easiest and the most difficult thing about acting, for it is when fiction confronts and meets reality.
The film brought back some painful memories, making it difficult to manage my emotions during production. Yet at the same time, this aspect of acting is crucial in bring the character of François to life, as his story mirrors mine. All the cast members have been moved by my story and it is amazing how they all work together to make the film authentic and sincere.
How did you become involved in the writing process?
I embarked on this writing project as I needed an outlet for expression. My ideas for the film were eventually picked up by the producers and co-writers, all of whom made the realisation of the film possible.
Writing and acting are two distinct stages of the project. Given this, I did not consider how I will play the character of François when I was writing the script of the film, and instead devoted my attention to each individual stage.
How important do you think is Asian representation in films outside of Asia?
While Asian representation in film remains relatively low, we are witnessing a growing number in the recent years. Such positive signals make me very happy.
For instance, Korean cinema is receiving international recognition thanks to the movie Parasite, directed by Bong Joon-Ho and clinched the Palme d’Or won at the 2019 Cannes International Film Festival. Another notable breakthrough is the 2018 Hollywood blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians. Shot in Singapore and Malaysia, it made records at the box-office in the United States. Made in China seeks to highlight the Asian diaspora community in France and increase Asian representation in films.
If there’s one thing you can change about the Made in China, what would it be?
I think this film fits me well. Perhaps if I had been the director, I would have sought to create an even more dynamic comedy rhythm. Otherwise I wouldn’t have changed anything about the emotion of the film.
Are there any actors or writers you look up to?
As Made in China is largely based on my personal story, no particular writer or actor comes to mind. Generally speaking, I watch a lot of movies from all around the world. By keeping an open-mind, I found inspiration in all types of cinema ranging from Asia to America to the Middle East and Europe. As an artist, I don’t have a model but a wide range of inspirations.
Nonetheless, if I had to give a name, I would say the work of Céline Sciamma (director of Tom Boy, Girlhood and more recently of Portrait of a Lady on Fire). I found her films greatly touching.
What are the takeaways you hope for viewers of Made in China?
I hope that all the viewers will remember the authentic story of a French man from a different origin, not only Asian. Indeed, I would like this film to resonate universally and I hope that everyone who feel different would accept themselves more easily.
By John Li