January – May 2001
A week before heading off to Israel for the second time, I’m already a nervous wreck with anxiety attacks concerning everything that could go wrong shooting in a volatile war zone. The bombings have started up again or maybe it has only started up to me but it’s everyday reality in Israel.
Yet I still manage to commit Cheuk and I to talk about the doc on a Cantonese TV show. What was I thinking? I can manage ordering dim sum and maybe a few feeble pick up lines here and there, but I was gonna have to resort to Chinglish if I was to carry a reasonably intelligent cinematic discussion on air.
“Kwoi is my eye,” Cheuk said when asked about our working relationship on air. Sometimes that’s a challenge. Sometimes it’s an encouragement. For the most part, it’s a huge responsibility.
The way I work with Cheuk, the way I light, the way I see, the reason I dare to handhold every shot is all about “choices”. My purpose is to make intuitive choices for myself as much as for Cheuk, for the subjects and all that I’m working for. I forget who, but someone once said “a great filmmaker cannot make bad films… just bad choices” — which more or less sums up our shooting process.
Cheuk’s doc is structured like a “fat man’s feet”. They more or less get him from place to place but he can’t see them till the end of the day when he bends over to undo his shoes in the edit! No, Cheuk, I’m not making fun of your Buddha belly… it’s just a metaphor.
We got back from Israel in one piece and the “fat man’s feet” showed itself tonight. Our editor Zinka screened the fine cut of Israel before she leaves for England tomorrow. They say that a man can only fake a woman’s sense of rhythm on editing. I’m gonna miss her cool sense of rhythm and big beautiful smile.
We start to see what the film is about. It is surprisingly coherent and lyrical. My intuition tells me that it’s in the edit that Cheuk finds the meaning in much of what I have shot. I never intellectualize over what certain details, colours or actions mean at the time of shooting. I like to think that the images take on a life of their own and anticipate where the film would take us. They’re like images from the future at the time of shooting and then they arrive in our “virtual reality”.