Interview with Filmmaker Lillian Xuege Li (LIN)

LIN was the winner of BEST DIRECTION at the June 2022 WILDsound Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I’m interested in the female gaze and how the act of looking and creating could be a tool for empowerment and regaining agency. The main character in the film, Lin, is a Chinese immigrant woman who is trapped in her social roles as a mother, a wife, a minority, a foreigner, a laborer and an object of gaze. She is caught up in these external forces as well as her internalized cultural upbringing that values endurance, obedience and sacrifice. The camcorder that she has is not only her escape, but also a window for her to gaze back at the world. From this gaze, she regains the courage and realization to seize her own narration.

When I was writing this character, I was thinking about my mother, grandmothers, aunts, and the strengths and vulnerabilities that they possess. They’ve all told me tales of the dreams they’ve given up, the struggles they’ve put up with and the sacrifices that they’ve made for their families and offsprings, some happily and some with regrets. I wanted to re-imagine a life or a decision that may lead to a different path of possibility.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

We had a small crew with about 10 people from pre-production to post-production. I was juggling the roles of the writer, director, producer and editor. Most of our crews, including me at the time, were students. Even though the shooting only took two days, the project from writing to post-production took about six months.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Heroine’s journey

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

This is my first fiction short film with a written script. Transferring ideas into written words and re-transferring words into settings and performances is a methodical process. As a new filmmaker, I’m still trying to better my craft of directing and finding the balance of control and breathing space.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

It was a mixed feeling of nervousness, curiosity and gratefulness to hear the audience feedback. I appreciate everybody who took the time to experience the film and gave their thoughts. It is a magical feeling every time when I see an audience react and connect to a piece of work I produce. The feedback is incredibly valuable in telling me what works and what to improve. It also fascinates me to see how different people interpret the story.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I grew up next to a theatre, and some of my earliest and most exciting memories revolve around films and cinema. I always have the impulse to observe, wonder, make sense and create. Right now I try not to think that I’m making “films” as I’m working on thinking beyond imitation and not to let the medium dictate my creativity.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

“Yiyi” by Edward Yang.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

More online/offline visibility and promotion; group screenings and Q&A; networking opportunity.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

It works.

10. What is your favorite meal?

My hometown Henan’s traditional breakfast – Hutalang (Hot pepper soup) and Youtiao (Fried dough).

11. What is next for you? A new film?

I’m working on a new short about watch repair shops in Chinatown. I’m exploring documentary and animation to tell a poetic tale about time and aging.

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival www.wildsound.ca

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