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CinemaTalk: Interview with Huang Weikai, Director of <i>Disorder</i>

"Disorder" director Huang Weikai

"Disorder" director Huang Weikai

Disorder, a bold documentary by Huang Weikai, has been steadily garnering recognition over the past year, screening at multiple venues across America. It’s been mentioned as one of the best films of 2010 by Moving Image Source and Film Comment magazine, and recently won Best Documentary at the Ann Arbor Film Festival. Seeing it at the Reel China Film Festival in NYU, Hua Hsu of The Atlantic called it “one of the most mesmerizing films I’ve seen in ages.”

Disorder screens this Friday in Chicago at The Nightingale as part of the White Light Cinema series, and Saturday and Sunday at Anthology Film Archives in New York City. Details for both events can be found here, as well as on the Chicago event’s Facebook page.

We have translated an interview with Huang Weikai that took place during one of the film’s first screenings at the 2009 Beijing Documentary Week (DOChina) and was originally published on the Fanhall Films website. (Sadly, both the Fanhall website and DOChina have been shut down this year; we hope that access to outstanding films like Disorder, as well as information about them, will continue to be accessible somehow in China.)

Q: What made you want to make this film?

Huang: I have lived in the city for a long time, and I have always been very concerned with city life. In recent years, cities have evolved a lot. This explains why I want to make a documentary about present city life in China. This film reflects what I think about city life, especially the chaotic side of it.

Q: The Chinese title of Disorder is “Now is the Future of the Past.” What does this title have to do with the content of the film?

Huang: I thought for a long time in vain about what name to give to this film. One day, I paced back and forth in my office and noticed a newspaper on the floor. It was the last edition of the year 2007. It summarized the accomplishments by Chinese artists in various fields of art. The introduction of the report was a standard piece that offered a review of the past and a vision of the future. The last sentence of the forward said, “The future is the constant arrival of the present.” Then I asked myself, what is the present? Isn’t the present the future of the past? That was how I decided to name my film.

Q: How much footage did you shoot for this film?

Huang: I watched over a thousand hours’ film from DV filmmakers. In the final version of the edited film, I only included fewer than three scenes that I shot myself, all of which are empty shots. They are used mainly for editing.

Q: How long did it take for you to edit? Huang: About a year. Editing this kind of documentary is very exhausting because you need to edit the film by taking account of its rhythm, its content, as well as the tonalities of its emotions all at the same time.

Q: Could you talk about your experience of editing a little more? Huang: No matter whether one makes a feature film or a documentary, the work of art at hand is an artistic expression that combines images with sound. The fundamental relationships in this kind of expression are those between images, those between images and sound, and those between sounds. If this is what a film actually is, then my film is a showcase of the different relations in this kind of art. And I have edited it as such.

Q: Did you get any kind of financial support anywhere for the film? Huang: Yes, the money mainly came from the AMD Documentary Foundation, the rest came from my friends.

Q: What made you want to make it in black and white? Huang: There are two reasons: one subjective, and the other objective. The objective reason is that I had collected different kinds of raw footage, and I also had several digital videocameras. Since different cameras have different visual qualities, shooting in black and white would help me eliminate the ostensible differences between colors. The subjective reason is that I used to be a brush painter, and I like portraying visuals in black and white.

Q: You used to be a brush painter; what made you want to make films? Huang: I fell in love with film when I was in college. With the the advent of DV, making a film became much easier than before, and then I jumped right in.

Qn: Did you have some expectations for your film after it’s done? Are you interested in marketing it? Huang: If marketing the film is a profession, I believe no director is good at marketing, so I don’t think I can be good at it either. However, I think if there are professional marketing teams for independent productions, then I can hope for more.

Interviewed by Wang Ling. Translation by Isabella Tianzi Cai.

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