Taiwan Film Festival in Australia Q&A with Moneyboys 《金錢男孩》Director C.B.Yi 陳熠霖
This is your first feature film and already received three nominations at Cannes Film Festival. This is super impressive. Could you tell us a bit more about yourself? What did you do before making Moneyboys? Making your own short films or working for other film productions? And what's your role if in a production team, director, scriptwriter?
I am super thankful for Cannes ́ support to this film, to encourage these hidden heroes like our main character Fei, to show solidarity with them, to show that we care about them and that we understand them.
I had a carefree childhood that I look back on with nostalgia. From the early films of Taiwanese master director HOU Hsiao Hsien, I still find places and traces of those times. Even in some films by Japanese old master, Yasujirô OZU, I find heartfelt moments with the kindness of people that I experienced in my childhood.
It wasn't until when I was 13 years old that I came to Austria to live with my parents. During the first week, my father explained to me sternly that we had to adapt quickly in a foreign country to avoid attract negative attention. I was a solitary teenager. I often skipped class to watch banned horror movies from the video store, dropped out of school several times, and tried different jobs. As an immigrant, it often feels like you only have one foot in the culture and life that surround you. This dichotomy puts you in an observer position to the sidelines: you learn to observe, adapt, reflect on what's happening, and blend in. I very much wish I could say it's like the element of water in Taoism: it has no fixed form but makes its way freely around all obstacles.
I started under the guidance of Michael Haneke in 2004. Before making Moneyboys I wrote a handful of scripts, that are waiting for their realization. And I am happy to work as director, dop for documentary, as an editor, script writer, producer, and a confidant.
You grew up in Vienna and trained by Haneke. Could you share what you learned most from Director Haneke and how he has influenced your style, perhaps?
To my good fortune, I met some people while I was studying in Vienna who opened my eyes to a different life and to the language of film, with which I have less difficulty than with the spoken word. The surreal stories of Bunuel, and the sensuality in the images of Wong-Kar Wai, the harsh realism of Haneke’s “The Piano Teacher”, the imaginative force of sound in Takashi Miike’s “Audition” showed me what unimaginable things could be done with films.
There must be so many things stored in my subconscious mind. One of the most important skills as a director that I have learned from Haneke is to be precise, to be consequent, and to protect your actors and artists. It's all about creating a trustworthy environment and space of freedom, so that they can flourish in their roles.
And I understood how important it is for a director to have a solid knowledge about the different handcrafts involved in making a movie. To be acquainted with camera, lighting, editing, and script writing etc. helped me a lot to understand the needs of each involved profession.
The actual moneyboys industry is a sensitive topic; often, people will bring out various emotions such as rage, criticising, or try to do something to avoid the growth of this "sex" industry. But in the film, we don't get as much. Instead, the film has a very clear direction on the character's inner feelings for each other. Could you tell us more about the scriptwriting process? Did you have to edit it a lot to remove your voices and views?
As you well described the topic is sensitive. I didn’t want to bring the audience to just become a voyeur. Everyone has the empathy to imagine the bad and violent situations related to sex work. I just want to point out that violence can happen to Moneyboys - like in the prologue of the film - but it is not the main concern for me to show this kind of "voyeurism". And I imagined that the audience would go inside themselves during the screening and find their emotional connection and their empathy for one of my characters.
The script was constantly in a work-in-progress state for a couple of years before we shot the film. I put all the issues that touched me during the years while working on "Moneyboys" into this film. What topic attracts you the most in the film may depend on your mood at the moment of watching it. I would like to leave the audience some space to explore their perspective on this film.
At the world premiere in Cannes, on the stage, I felt the wish to address all the Feis in this world: Before you devote yourself to others, before you sacrifice yourself for your family, for your friends and for your beloved ones, you have to take care of yourself. And you have to love yourself truly first."
The film has a very realistic style, but with various locations and different actors' accents, it somehow adds another mysterious and dystopia layer that the film is without geographical or identity restriction. But this perhaps would only be picked up by viewers who can understand Chinese. Was this style set purposely, and if yes, could you further explain why? Did you set up the target audience of this film?
Thank you for your interesting comment. Film can be more than realistic. We can add our artistic thoughts to it, like the subtle music composition of our composer Yun sending impulses to the audience, teasing their emotional abilities. Yun is both a smart and philosophically talented musician and a sound recordist who is highly valued in the Asian film industry. He has an incredible energy and a loving kindness. I wish that film festivals in the future will value his work properly and invite him to talk about his philosophically interesting approach to music and sound in "Moneyboys".
This story can happen everywhere on our planet. Where there is a society, there can happen fantastic encounters but also cruelties – often to those people who devote themselves most to the community. It ́s a universal film which targets all the people out there.
As a director you cannot simply enforce your ideas, but adapt your vision in accordance with the situation you find yourself in. "Moneyboys" faced circumstances where we had to make big decisions within few hours, but we got used to it. In the end I missed the active work a lot.
The bridge scene, which was a very iconic location from Director Hou's Millennium Mambo. Any reason or particular hidden message for choosing to shoot on that bridge?
First of all, this special bridge is filmable and there are so many friends I meet who saw "Millennium Mambo" and always mention the beauty of the first scene on the bridge. When my location manager told me that the city will breakaway (demolish?) the bridge soon, I felt the urge to store this bridge on the celluloid to create some nostalgia with audiences on the long run.
Second, I have huge respect for director Hou and his films which took me to places I could not be otherwise to immerse into the lives of interesting human beings. Just watch his press conferences in Cannes, how respectfully and warmly all his actors are talking about him. You can feel director Hou is a caring and fathering person, full of wisdom and humorous.
Would you be able to share your next project, Pureland, and another one about France in the seventies, which you said will all be a trilogy of Moneyboys? Will they all be with LGBTIQ+ storytelling? And has the pandemic heavily affected your next project going ahead, perhaps even on Moneyboys?
Thank you very much for your interest. The next two projects will have LGBTIQ+ characters involved in the stories but not as central topic. "Pureland" will be shot in Paris. We are looking for production partners right now. It ́s a father and son story questioning the rootlessness of our generation. The third one is now in a script developing state and it is too early to nail down the theme.
"Moneyboys" could have been released last year but I am super happy that we can have the film premiere this late autumn in Austria, France and Taiwan. And some more premieres and festival invitations shall follow.
Earlier this year, you also started a production company called Chengefilm, which has a tremendous vision for the world, such as ESG impacts, equality, sustainability. There are various production companies in Europe, what made you decided to do this? And would you encourage young filmmakers to do the same as well? Will this be the future trend?
It is important to have a team which I am familiar with and to work regularly with the same people who know, understand, respect, and trust each other. As a director, it's not so much about being capable of everything, about being the smartest, but about having the right people around you for each task to optimize time and energy for your artistic decisions. When you work with kindred spirits, finding the right images on set is more efficient and fruitful: a suggestion here, a hint there, and you quickly find settings that you then don't have to change much during the course of the shoot. Therefore, I recently founded my own production company under the name Chengefilm. Together with like-minded people we want to produce films that let the collective intelligence of the group emerge. Most importantly we like to be joyful at work. Film is not only our work, but also part of our life since the production might keep us together for years.