We are driving to Brickaville, a small village up the mountains,
by the river. The trip took around an hour and with spectacular
scenery. It’s a scene from Chow Yun Fat’s last Hong Kong flick
“Peace Hotel” with all the rough looking extras. It has a very
frontier flavour. But instead of challenging us to a gunfight,
the town folks are friendly and invite us into their homes for
Cheuk and I spot a familiar little old Chinese
lady filling a liquor bottle. Homemade moonshine seems to be a
popular business here.
We recognize the Lai’s from a Hong Kong TV Doc “Stories From
They invite us into their home for tea and homemade
moon cake. Once inside, I’m transplanted back to China. The dated
décor of Chinese posters and artifacts bring me back to my
ancestral village in Toishan. The only give away is the Malagasy
servants who still iron clothes in the adjacent shack using
museum artifact coal heated irons. But they have two modern
refrigerators and TV. So there is electricity. Go figure?
I hate to say impossible. It makes me feel like a quitter. But
there are certain situations that we just cannot shoot. The
streets here are pitch black at night. The only illumination
comes from the headlights of infrequent vehicles whizzing by. I
guess the infrastructure doesn’t make allowances for extras like
street lighting. I’m maxing out the gain so much that I’m
crushing the blacks in my DV signal.
A gaffer once commented
that I have an anti lighting style. Oh well...blame it on
budget, location, Dogme and cinema verité!
I think “style” is really about “choice” rather than “concept”.
It should really be “organic” instead of “imposed”.
We had an
interview set up with this eccentric old guy Roger Leung who
hangs out at Hotel Joffre. He stood us up but caught up with us
at the airport lounge later on. We had checked my Steadicam,
lighting and audio gear on board by then. Cheuk and I took him
out to the runway. You can still get away with shit like that in
Third World airports but you cannot retrieve your gear once it’s
I was stuck on this imaginary, unmotivated “line of light” to
suggest the old man’s passage of time in exile. I would have
needed Arcs or Par lights for that kind of effect even in this
feeble, fading, magic hour light. I had no choice but to flare
the lens on purpose.
A stretch of open run way... as my human Steadicam parries
around the old man... magic hour light flickers through his
silhouette... flaring the lens... with a little help from God,
my Gaffer of Choice. I stay a beat before chancing the limits a
little more... EUREKA! The old man picks up on my lead and
follows through the move to gaze enigmatically into the setting
sun... He’s over exposed for a few seconds... Just as I’m about
to crank down the iris, my Gaffer of Choice comes through once
more with the sun dropping under the horizon.
It looks great on my LCD. It’s the beginning of a beautiful
partnership as my Gaffer and I fly off into the sunset. My
reading material on this flight was ironically Douglas Copland’s
LIFE AFTER GOD!