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raymac Written by raymac
Nov. 16, 2011 | 4:51 AM

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Interview with director Michelle ChenMiao of SON OF THE STARS

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ZhengZheng, a young mother of an autistic child, travels the great distance from northern China to DongGuan, the land of tens of thousands of factories, looking for her husband. With her special-needs child Xin Xin in tow, she finds herself alone in the enormous city, with nothing but her wits and inner strength to guide her. 

When she realizes her husband is nowhere to be found, she is forced to take a factory job, earning just enough to support herself and her little boy, whom she hands over to the care of a community home.

With hard work, ZhengZheng is promoted, moves into an apartment, and even finds a new love. Life is looking up…but the relationship is not without strings attached, and caring for an autistic son proves more and more challenging. It seems the one thing holding ZhengZheng back from happiness is her son. But things are not always as they seem…

At the recent American Chinese Film Festival, we spoke with director Michelle ChenMiao of this visually impressive drama, SON OF THE STARS, which opens in China early in 2012.

FilmRadar: Why don’t you tell us a little about the film?

ChenMiao: This feature film is a mother and son’s story. A young mother has an autistic child and is traveling from Northern China to DongGuan which is where “Made In China” is and she is trying to look for a good life but her son gets in the way. The story is about if she is going to keep the son or get rid of the son… how will their relationship turn out to be.

It sounds like it is an intense drama.

ChenMiao: Yes, it is.

FilmRadar: IMDB lists the budget at a million dollars. Is this a bid budget film for China?

ChenMiao: It is a medium sized budget.  We filmed realistically so we did not need to make any sets and we had a great crew. Our DP and everyone else was very experienced.

FilmRadar: How was the production? Do you have any problems?

ChenMiao: I’m very happy with the production and you can see the results on the big screen. I graduated from the Beijing Film Academy where most production people come from. We all know each other very well and so we work as a team.

FilmRadar:  You’ve also worked here in the United States. Is that correct?

ChenMiao: Yes, I worked in the states for Fox Worldwide.

FilmRadar:  So, how would you compare the difference between working in the United States as opposed to China?

ChenMiao:  Working at Fox Worldwide was a great opportunity to see how the industry works. Here you have a more complete infrastructure for filmmaking so I was exposed to the different stages of filmmaking plus how it gets publicized and distributed. So when I went back to China, it was the start of the economic boom. It was an exciting moment that I caught .. this social change. Of course, it doesn’t mean that I’ll get a big budget for my movies but when I get into this social change I realize that a lot of great stories are going to be happening. I realized that this was the time for writing stories. The first thing I did was actually making a documentary because I felt that this great change was making such a big impact on me that I have to react so instead of sitting at home writing I wanted to have my camera and just throw myself into this social change.

FilmRadar: The impression here in the States is heavily censored by the government. Is that really true or do you find that you have more freedom then you had in the past?

ChenMiao: It is true. Even this film got censored not only by the city but by the central government. But things are getting more open now. They won’t get into some silly reason to make you revise the dialogue or other silly things but they still have censorship.. they will still monitor for anything that is against the image of the country.

FilmRadar: What is there about your film that you think would connect with American audiences. Do you think it has universal appeal?

ChenMiao: Yes, I definitely think so. The reason is because of my background. I was in Hollywood working for Fox for quite a few years and then I went back. So I always have this point of view of not only see the story happening in China happening very locally, very domestically .. actually I see it very internationally. I will always stand in the point of view of many audiences not only for the Chinese but various people, It is just inside of me. That is why I have this confidence.

FilmRadar: Your film is about this woman who is struggling to find a job and raise her kid and so with things like Occupy Wall Street, I would think that it would resonate with audiences no matter where they were.

ChenMiao Yes, when you are talking to how this movie connects to many audiences is that I focused on this “Made In China” social change that everyone know is happening in China but more importantly I stand in the point of view of humanity as the mother-son relationship… it is to everybody. It is the bridge to get people to look at my film.

FilmRadar: Do you see the appeal of the Chinese film industry growing internationally?

ChenMiao: In China, they used to only sell KungFu or action as a Chinese production but they realize that this is not the only card that can be played. They can tell a more sophisticated story for an international audience. We are in a “flat” world which means that we all share many things together. More and more productions will focus on drama, suspense, many different kinds of stories will be coming out. It will develop into a full tree with many different branches.

FilmRadar: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

ChenMiao: One time, director Danny Boyle visited Shanghai and he said that right now you have such a great social change as background. The background is so big that you only need to cut into a story with a very small angle.. a very touching low angle story. His words inspired me a lot to want to make this combination. So with SON OF STARS, I already start this try but I hope in the future I can take many ways to make more stories with international appeal just like wine can ferment and become more full bodied.




First Comment:

  1. Are comments still permitted?

    Posted by Gman on 03/07 at 12:32 PM