STILL HUMAN is a Hong Kong feature film in 2018 directed by the new director Chan Siu Kuen and produced by Chen Guo. It is starred by Anthony Wong Chau Sang and Crisel Consunji. Funded by the Film Development Fund of Hong Kong Film Development Council and CreateHK, this film has won a prize in Hong Kong’s First Feature Film Initiative (FFFI) in the Higher Education Institutions Group, and served as the opening film at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival 2018.
This film tells us a story about two people depending on each other for survival after settlement at the bottom of society in Hong Kong. The mid-aged man Han Changrong (acted by Anthony Wong Chau Sang) became paralyzed after an accidental injury and his wife and son left him. He thought that there would be nothing worthy of expectation and he wouldn’t deserve anything during the rest of his life. Due to some practical reasons, the young Filipino maid Evelyn (acted by Crisel Consunji) gave up her dream of being a photographer and became a worker depending on others for living. In summer, the two strangers met and got acquainted with each other in an initial employment relationship. In addition to continuously-enhanced friendship, the two people also won respect and love between souls. After experiencing four seasons together, they came to find a way to face ups and downs in life.
CFM: Where does the inspiration of the film come from? Why do you want to make such a film?
Chan Siu Kuen: One day when I walked, I met a woman and a man sitting in a refitted electric wheelchair. At the back of the wheelchair, there installed a pedal and a Filipino woman was standing on it. When they passed in front of me, the special picture containing close interactions between two people touched me. Although I thought the picture was beautiful, I felt uncomfortable deep in my heart. I have been thinking of this picture and the reason that makes me uncomfortable for several days after I was back at home. Later, I realized it may be caused by my personal prejudice. I have assumed the background information of this girl, for example, her nationality. I thought she was a foreign domestic worker and if so, it was a little weird since she has a close relationship with the employer, even making people feel ambiguous. However, she may not be a foreign domestic worker, but the girlfriend of that man. Then it came to me that, maybe many Hong Kong people or other people have such prejudice as mine. They may judge things like this with prejudice. Therefore, I want to make a movie out of this story.
At that time, the government issued the First Feature Film Initiative and provided a supporting fund of HKD 3.25million. As my story is around these two people, I think I may use this fund to make it into movie. So I wrote the script based on this story and participated in the competition. At last, we were awarded the fund and able to produce our film.
CFM: The Chinese name of this film is “Lun Luo Ren” is translated into “Still Human”. They seem a little different. Do they have some special meaning?
Chan Siu Kuen: Actually, the film can be interpreted more completely when linking its Chinese name with the English name. The film’s Chinese name doesn’t sound like so poor as it seems. It’s originated from an old Chinese poem, e.g., “Both of us in misfortune go from shore to shore. Meeting now, need we have known each other before?”. It means that since we are destined to meet each other in this world, the fact that whether we have the same background really doesn’t matter. We are living in different situations and encountering various difficulties. However, regardless of whatsoever difficulty we have met or the hardest time in our life, we shall still remember to live like a human, which is also the meaning conveyed in “Still Human”.
CFM: It’s reported that the Filipino maid in this film is acted by a new actor without much professional experience. Is there any difficulty in communicating with the actor?
Chan Siu Kuen: Actually, the heroine Crisel Consunji is not a completely new actor. She has acted in the stage play before and accumulated much experience in this regard. The actors of other foreign domestic workers are also completely new actors, but the cooperation between us is quite smooth.
Although Crisel Consunji has certain stage experience, stage performances always feature big body movements. So I told her to control her movements from time to time, until she felt that she was making no movement. Then I would tell her it’s ok and she feels quite miraculous.
The language barrier didn’t bother us much, either. As Crisel Consunji and I are both fluent in English, we can communicate about the film in English smoothly. The interesting part is that, she often felt confused when I talked a lot with onsite staff in Cantonese, but a few words with her in English.
CFM: Is STILL HUMAN your first feature film? What kind of support have you got from the film & TV circle of Hong Kong?
Chan Siu Kuen: Yes, it is. We received much support from the First Feature Film Initiative in CreateHK. They provided all the funds of our film and the judges in this project also proposed many suggestions. Even after winning in the competition, the evaluation experts had been reading the script with me and put forward many suggestions before I finalizing the script. They also gave me some hints at the filming site. We also enjoyed some discount when leasing equipment and facilities from the equipment companies. They all supported the new directors like me to produce a film at a low cost. I would like to express my gratitude to many predecessors in the film industry for their great support, as well as many new looks and staff for their common efforts.
CFM: Is there any difficulty and corresponding solution in the shooting process? Can you share any story that greatly impressed you?
Chan Siu Kuen: We encountered the greatest difficulty in finding the shooting venue. When you rent a venue for film shooting, they tend to offer a higher price. The lack of adequate venue budget has led to much difficulty.
In addition, we need to find a public house to set up the main feature at home. But we failed to find an appropriate one. Later, we finally found a kindergarten in one pit of another house. There is a room with the similar structure we wanted. However, this room has been deserted for a long time and there is a lot of dirt. Besides, it has no toilet, water, electricity and wifi. We need to supply the power by ourselves. Despite those difficulties, we finally found a shooting venue that provided the main feature in our film for free. There are also many difficulties alike about the shooting venue. But many people provided support for us when we rented the venue later. For example, some of them offered us a discount and some even provided the venue for free.
CFM: As an emerging force in Hong Kong films, how do you think of the current film industry in Hong Kong?
Chan Siu Kuen: I think it’s pleased to see the emergence of more and more new directors and creators in current film industry of Hong Kong. It’s a pity that the new directors don’t have many opportunities to present their works for a long time. There are not many authentic films produced every year, mainly commercial films featuring big-budget production. However, it’s unlikely that all films in the market focus on the same subject. More interesting subjects shall be explored.
The new-generation filmmakers and predecessors have never stopped their creation pace. It’s good to see the current film market has displayed a trend of diversified development. We hope that the future film market can accommodate the films of various subjects, ranging from the commercial film, literary film, documentary to experimental feature film. Thus, the whole market will become more prosperous in the future.
CFM: Is there any creation plan in the future? Will you continue to focus on people at the bottom of society or start to try other subjects?
Chan Siu Kuen: In the future, I will continue to direct many films around the subjects and stories I am interested. Instead of being all about lower-class people, I will write stories based on my interest and thought. Of course, my stories will be all about people. Because I think it’s an interesting process to explore the stories about people living in different situations.