Zhang Feng’s feature drama Boundaries of the Heart offers us insights into the lives of those living in rural China, where life can be harsh … The film is a testament to individual love, and the power of community.
BBFF’s Lonnie Gilroy spoke to the director, who at the time of the interview was hoping to travel to the festival.
I understand you are coming to the festival at Byron Bay. Have you been to Australia before? What are you looking forward to most?
I have not been to Australia before. I am most looking forward that more Australians and filmmakers who participate in Byron Bay Film Festival can see my movie. In China there are so many family and poor like these in my movie; there is a large gap between rich and poor in China. Participating in BBFF can increase the influence of this movie, so that the Chinese government can know this problem clearly and try to help those who need help. And, of course, this will encourage me to create a new film in the future.
What made you submit the film to the Byron Bay Film Festival?
I know about the BBFF from its many posts on internet. There are many well-known films and filmmakers from around the world come to Australia screenings, thanks for the hard efforts of all staff of BBFF. Many filmmakers from China and other places of the world think that BBFF is a very influential film festival. I hope that my film can participate in this festival so that I can exchange with more filmmakers. This is one of the reasons which is prompting me to attend BBFF. Of course, Byron Bay is a very beautiful place. My hometown has not a sea, only the mountain. If I can take part in BBFF, this will be the first time in my life to see to the sea closely, and for me it will be meaningful.
How experienced were the cast and crew? Were the actors all professionals?
All actors who participate in Boundaries of the Heart are non-professional actors and come from among the local people. We carried the camera and kept shooting them for a month, told them the story of the play, let them grasp the story, how to walk and so on. We took 36 days to shoot this film. Only the photographer is professional in photography, all other staff, including me are movie lovers, not a professional engaged in filmmaking.
I noticed there were some real life stories at the end of the film. Is this where the idea for the film first came from? Are there any other personal stories attached to the film?
The photos in the end of the film come from a true Chinese story, which was my initial inspiration and source. There is a lot of the real story like this in China, because the majority of Chinese people do not have faith, and there is a large gap between rich and poor. For poor people suffering from this disease, they will wait to die because they don’t have money to save themselves, or using our methods to save their lives, although this part of the poor do not know how to find God. But there is a nameless God in their heart: they use a special method of prayer to make the power of faith more powerful. And finally there is a bike photo. My movie is based on the true story.
How was the film funded?
The total investment of this film is $US15 million, the total investment is paid by caring people. The film is not invested by a movie fund, there is no professional film investors to invest, because in China, this type of film is nobody to see, there is no commercial value, and no movie star. In order to show this story to more people, I personally have invested $20,000. Finding investment is a very difficult thing.
Were there any other films you looked at for inspiration?
I’ve done a total of nine 120-minute long scripts, such as “monkey” is a story about poachers hunting monkeys in the forest, where a small monkey was arrested by poachers, its family members and monkeys protector save the little monkey. For example script “condom” is a love story about two condoms comes to the human world. They don’t know is good or not to help people. This let them painfully. At the beginning they don’t help the human, this makes them painfully, and then they try to use a right way to help the human.
What was the most challenging aspect of the project?
In China, the most challenging thing is that no one wants to invest in movies like Boundaries of the Heart. This type of movie doesn’t have commercial value.
What were the risks involved with the zip-line sequences of the film? How common are zip-lines in China?
This zip-line is safe for the local villagers. There is not a big risk, because the zip-line is used as transport of natives to cross the river every day, but for some actors, they should train bravely for a period. There are a lot of zip-lines in China like this. Almost every village near Nujiang River has one, but the good news is that the government is constantly building bridges.
Has the film been shown at any other festivals around?
Boundaries of the Heart participated in the Bahamas Film Festival and Indonesian Film Festival, and won the best feature film award.