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Competition “Buddha Mountain” Interview with Li Yu (Director), Sylvia Chang (Actress), Chen Po Lin (Actor) (10/26)

Competition “Buddha Mountain” Interview with Li Yu (Director), Sylvia Chang (Actress), Chen Po Lin (Actor) (10/26)

Li Yu, a 36-year old female director with many awards in China, welcomed Sylvia Chang, a veteran actress from Taiwan in “Buddha Mountain.” Yu also co-wrote the script, and the result of her work was screened in the Competition section. Sylvia plays a retired Chinese opera singer Chang, who lost all hope and meaning of life along with her only son who died in an accident. She ends up sharing her house with young and cynical Ding Bo (Chen Po Lin) and two of his friends. The youths learn to understand the bitter meaning of life as they progress, but Chang makes a choice. In a Q&A session after the screening, Chang’s “choice” created arguments amongst Sylvia Chang, Chen Po Lin and the producer Fang Li who doubled as Chen’s father. The film sheds light on a deep human drama and is worth watching. The director, Sylvia and Po Lin talked about their thoughts on the film.
©2010 TIFF

---What prompted you to write this story?

Li Yu (Yu):What was most shocking was the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake. I was shocked by the number of people died in the earthquake, but the shock was greater when I heard that many survivors killed themselves. There was a man who helped many people, while his 6-year old daughter remained buried. When the rescue operation quietened down a little, he killed himself. He left a note, “Please do not feel sad. I have thought about this and I have done everything I could. You may not understand this but I am happy with my decision.” It was a suicide for the happiness of the soul. There was another fact which shocked me greatly. It was the news that young employees at a computer company were killing themselves one after another. When one commits suicide, someone else follows suit and dies. They are mentally exhausted. I thought there may be a link between the impulse of the youths and the choice of happiness of an elderly person who has lost the meaning of life.
©2010 TIFF

--- How did you cast the roles?

Yu:While I was still writing the script, I was sure that Chang should be played by Sylvia, and that her performance will make this film different from others. I was convinced that Sylvia’s passion and skill in performance, which has been nurtured during her long career, will convey Chang’s emotions precisely. Chen Po Lin was recommended by Sylvia. I searched for a young actor to play Ding Bo, not just in China but in Hong Kong and Taiwan as well, but in vain. Then Sylvia recommended Po Lin to me as he has a good personality and more than anything, he is fresh and clean, which Sylvia said is essential for Ding BO.

---How was it to perform such a difficult role with a heavy theme?

Sylvia Chan (Chan): It was toughest, not when I was acting, but when I could not decide whether to take on the role or not. I have a child myself so I think I can understand the pain of losing a child, but I was not sure if I could sympathize with Chang’s choice. I had a talk with the director and I slowly came to accept her choice may be possible. When I watched the finished film, I felt it was not me but Chang that was there. The same goes for Po Lin, Fan Bingbin and Fei Long. I felt we breathed and lived there together.
©2010 TIFF

Chen Po Lin (Chen): My upbringing is completely different from Ding Bo, but I have a friend like him. So I could understand his feeling and empathize with him. I only saw the finished film at the TIFF this time. It was me on the screen, but it was Ding Bo, and watching it made me feel like him again. It was surreal (laughs).
©2010 TIFF

---Do you think the three youths symbolize the angst-filled young generation in the modern time?

Yu:Yes, it is exactly the social issues faced by young people in China, and I portrayed their thorny adolescence. Many graduates are unemployed nowadays. Ding Bo seeks freedom by refusing university entrance exams but only manages an idle life. Many youths in China are in the same situation.

Chang:Living with those three youths, gradually heals the mind of Chang, my character. However, her anguish is different and deeper. She has spent a long time looking for an answer to a life question, and finds it through the interaction with these three youths. It is probably liberation. Each viewer will see the last scene in a different way, but I hope everyone will see it with hope.

---The locations in the grand and breath-taking natural beauty add to the sublime atmosphere effectively.

Yu: The producer is from Sichuan and from an area where a railway runs through, that’s how we found the location. Even so, it took a long time to decide on the location as we had to consider the positions of the mountains to place a temple and the angle of the railway track.

---The scene where the three youths were on the roof of a train was brilliant with an excellent sense of speed. How did you feel?

Chen: It was fun and I felt good. I’ve never done anything like that. There was a scene shot from a high-angle, and just three of us on the train without any crew. The train kept running and I felt as if we were going somewhere very far away.

---Having experienced this film about some deep worries in life, do you think you have changed in any way?

Chen:When I do something, I tend to think if I am doing it right or what is really important, rather than just to dive in and do it. Also, the director inspired me to do something, and I am writing a comedy script at the moment. I never thought I would want to direct or write a script.

Chang:I feel younger, thanks to the director’s energy (laughs). I might direct a film again in the near future.

A dignified piece of work with a theme of redemption of a soul. The lush green scenery cleanses the anguish of the characters. Popular young star, Chen Po Lin and Fan Bingbing, creating a fresh atmosphere, leaving a nice aftertaste. It is a shame the release of this excellent film is not set in Japan at this moment. Wishing for the release in Japan soon.

(Interviewed by: Yuko Kaneko)

Buddha Mountain
Film Information

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KEIRIN.JPThe 23rd Tokyo International Film Festival will be held with funds provided by Japan Keirin Association.TIFF History
22nd Tokyo International Film Festival(2009)