Saturday, November 3, 2007

Get to know an Asian Canadian Filmmaker: Jane Kim, 50/FIFTY

Here's #2 in a series of interviews featuring just some of the Asian Canadian filmmakers that will be showing their films at this year's festival. 50/FIFTY by Jane Kim is a soulful requiem for a family's past and is showing in the Power Play programme on Nov. 15th. Make sure you check it out.

Aram Collier: What was the inspiration for 50/Fifty?

Jane Kim: My family immigrated to Edmonton in 1971 and in the process of starting a new life in Canada, we lost a connection to our family and history in Korea. My parents were too busy working to keep any new artifacts of our lives and much of our existing family records were destroyed in a fire. In a process of wanting to know my family's past, I tried to archive what little we did still have around. The last couple of years, I have been traveling back to Alberta, digging through my family's boxes in basements, finding old damaged photographs, films, documents and I want to preserve them as well as
put them into some context for myself.

AC: How long did it take to make?

JK: For such a short work, it took me a long time -- on and off about 5 years. I fiddled around with the form for a long time and realized it had to get finished some way or another. I never thought I would incorporate my own voice-over but a friend convinced me to try.

AC- 50/Fifty uses family home movies, how was it working with material that’s so personal?

JK: It was very difficult to find these materials and also to ask my family questions about the past. No one seems to want to look back at a difficult period -- a moment in time when they felt very isolated, fearful.

AC: What would be a "deleted scene" from your film? Something that you really liked but it didn't work.

JK: The whole film could be considered deleted scenes from the family film.

AC: That’s a nice way to frame 50/Fifty… The film also features some hand processed super 8, how was that, how did you do that? Were you processing in your home bathtub?

JK: Although the project is finished on video, I spent a lot of time reprinting super-8 to 16mm. I also shot some film on b&w stock and hand-processed. Years ago I went to Phil Hoffman's Film Farm and learned how to hand process. He taught us that working on film doesn't have to be labourous, difficult or expensive. I still do hand process on occasion. Just this Spring I went to the Caribbean and shot on b&w stock and hand-processed. However I was stalling so much on this project that I forced myself to finish on video to get it done.

AC: Further to working with film what would you say are the challenges of working in the medium?

JK: It is the challenges of working in film that make it such a wonderful medium. I started out making dramatic work with highly skilled collaborators, and now I'm trying to learn how to shoot, process and edit myself. I'm trying to simplify and streamline the process to find a new personal, poetic approach. I'm still working on it but I think it's slowly making some sense and I have a better vision of where I want to go -- especially after finishing this project.

AC: Considering your experience as a filmmaker and programmer, plus you've no been in two all-asian canadian programmes the last two years, how would you characterize "asian canadian" film/video?

JK: I don't want to label or categorize such diverse work -- I find that too limiting and defining. I'm still trying to find my voice and style so I can't tell you how I fit into this context. I think "Asian-Canadian work" is constantly changing and new artists are making works that expand our ideas of what it should look, sound and feel like.

AC: What is your next project/what are you working on now?

JK: I'm continuing to work with family footage and artifacts but I'm hoping to move into an even less structured and more poetic way. I've been doing a lot of research on various film/video artists who work with multi-frames, hybrid forms and fragmentation, and read poets who deal with issues of immigration, diasporic issues and language. I think my piece will explore earlier generations of women in my family who had to live through war, patriarchy, economic difficulties and a lot of bad luck.

AC: what's the story behind your headshot

JK: Is this the headshot you took? i'm not sure...?

AC: yes, it is. And it was like pulling teeth to get you to take that pic! Thanks!