We caught up with the talented and award-winning director Qiu Yang, to talk about his amazing film amazing film ‘A Gentle Night’.
小城二月 | A Gentle Night | Xiao Cheng Er Yue – Trailer from Qiu Yang on Vimeo.
Director Qiu Yang’s emotional drama A Gentle Night has been selected for many prestigious film festivals, including Festival de Cannes, where it won the coveted Palme d’Or. In the next two months, A Gentle Night will be in contention at the Toronto International Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival and The New York Film Festival.
In a nameless Chinese city, a mother with her daughter missing, refuses to go gently into this good night.
What sparked the initial idea for this film?
It’s inspired by a few real local news. I saw a short report of children missing from a small community of my hometown. Then a few weeks later, a following up report says more children had gone missing. Then a few months later, I noticed another news saying all the lost children had come back. However, there’s no depth report of what happened. This sort of mystery fascinated me and kept coming back to me months later. So, I decided to take this as an inspiration and make a new short film.
Why ‘A Gentle Night’ as the title of your short film?
It is inspired by Dylan Thomas’s poem. “Do not go gentle into that good night.” I just felt the spirit behind it is somehow fitting to what the main character of the short went through.
Tell us about the casting
The entire cast are non-professional. I wanted to make the film in my hometown, Changzhou. So, all the characters had to speak my local dialect. However, I’m from a small city, so there’s no film industry, no professional actors. So, I needed to work with non-professionals. All of them are just real people from the streets or friends and families. Except the lead actress has Chinese traditional Xi Opera background, so she’s been on the stage, but no acting experience.
Who are your influences as a filmmaker?
Edward Hopper might be the biggest, as I am from a painting background. I tend to look for inspiration from painters or photographers.
Li Shuxian is impeccable in her performance, why was she the best candidate for the job?
She was the only candidate for the film. I wanted to cast non-professional actors for the film. But after two weeks of the audition, I didn’t find anyone that I was happy with. I was really close to pull the plug because the film is built around this character and I need someone who can carry it. I was very luckily at last minute that a friend of mine introduced her to the audition. She previously had some stage Chinese Opera experience, but never acted in front of a camera. But she just had this amazing ability to transfer whatever in my mind into performance. I didn’t have to do too much. It was pure pleasure to work with her.
Who would your dream cast be?
I’d love to make a film with Isabelle Huppert, Sean Penn and Chinese actor Feng Yuanzheng. I don’t know, might not be a good idea haha.
What message do you want people to take away from this film?
I always think the ending of the film isn’t the most crucial part for me. I don’t want to give out a clear personal message. I am a filmmaker; I don’t want to be a salesman or politician who delivers messages. I want to take the audience on a ride and show them things and in the end, give them the freedom to contemplate what happened.
If you had to give some advice for someone who wants to crack the film industry and/or go into the film business, what would it be?
Don’t try to “crack the film industry or go into the film business”. All I did is I just love film and want to make films that I love. I didn’t care much if it will open the door for me to the industry, I never consider myself a career filmmaker. So, I guess just go to make the films you love and be honest about it.
What are the next steps for A Gentle Night?
For the film, I think it will keep travelling for as long as it can. And luckily my sales agent and festival distributor is taking care of all that. So, I can focus on working on my feature film.
Lastly, where can people see ‘A Gentle Night’?
At the moment, the film is travelling through the festivals around the world, and we have also