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Ko - production in Busan
  • ZHANG Lu, Director of OVER THERE
  • by JI Yong-jin /  Apr 30, 2013
  • “I Might Be Addicted to the Beauty of Documentaries”
    ZHANG Lu is one of the three directors of a key project entitled, “Jeonju Digital Project 2013: Three Digital Colors of Three Directors” of the 14th Jeonju International Film Festival. Director ZHANG participated in the project with “strangers” as its theme along with KOBAYASHI Masahiro of Japan and Edwin of Indonesia. Director ZHANG fell in love with documentaries although he had some trouble making a documentary. “I may stop directing ordinary movies and direct documentaries only since I really enjoyed directing this documentary,” ZHANG quoted as saying to his staff.
    - You introduced your first feature film, Tang Poetry via the 2003 Jeonju International Film Festival. You held the world premiere of your first documentary, Over There during this year’s festival.

    It is a strange coincidence. I like this connection. The two other films of the project are also really great. But they are longer than my work. Haha! My work is close to the time limit set by the regulations of the project. I was concerned about the length of the running time. But unexpectedly, my film satisfies the time limit better than the other two.
    - I feel that even paused images in the film have stories. This is your first documentary. What was your intention?

    In the first place, I never thought of making a documentary. When the organizing committee of the festival asked me about my plan, strange enough, I said, “Do I have to make a documentary?” I was totally unprepared. After saying that, I began to prepare the project. I came to Korea in 1995. At that time, nearly all foreigners in Korea were foreign tourists. But these days, I can see more foreign workers than foreign tourists in Korea. Foreign tourists and foreign workers differ even in their facial expressions. This phenomenon looks like a new aspect of Seoul to me.

    So, I wanted to capture such feelings on the documentary. My intention was to capture foreign workers in Korea like scenes. I adopted an interview format. I thought that even it is a documentary, this film should have interviews. But I hate to have interviews. I did not have the courage to dig into the life of a person. An interviewer is a strong person while an interviewee is a weak person. I pondered over how to communicate in that kind of relationships. Both persons look like scenes. Such scenes just pass by. But if you take a look at the scenes for some time, you will be able to feel something. I only asked them about their dreams through interviews. My question was “What is the most impressive dream you dreamt after coming to Korea?” There are a person who asks about a dream and a person who answer about the dream. The two are equal.

    Although they could have refused interview offers for the documentary, they did not as we asked them about their dreams. Rather they told us all of their stories. Of course, this work contains stories about dreams only. There are differences between dreams that they dream in their hometowns and dreams that they dream in the foreign land. They talked a lot about a sense of insecurity and their families. So, I decided to put some scenes of their dreams into the documentary.

    - You could not include all the contents in the film due to the running time limit (about 30 minutes). How about turning the work into a longer version by adding the deleted scenes?
    At first, we had many more interviews and heard many interesting stories. But since it was a short documentary, I could not put all of them into the film. The pace of the film is a little fast. But I found the two other works very long. (laughs) I am discussing making the work longer with the Jeonju International Film Festival. If they are okay with it, I will be able to do that. Then I will be able to tell all I want to tell. I think the organizers will let me do that. This is because they do not hate me. (laughs)
    - Your film contains scenes of labor in urban and rural areas. How did you find these places?

    There are areas with a lot of foreign workers. They usually do difficult and hard work. These days, many of them work in greenhouses. I guess their pay is not high. This is because their work is usually what Korean workers hate. My students became the staff for this documentary. Before starting interviews, we obtained their consent. I told them that interviews will not interfere with their work. We shot them very naturally. If at least one of them does not agree, we move to other places.
    - “I am an alien, too,” you said in an interview before the start of the festival. How do you feel when you see aliens living in Korea?

    Since I am an alien, too, I watch them closely. Then I can feel what they feel. There is a limit to my understanding of them. But I can understand their feelings.
    - Was making a documentary more difficult than making a movie?

    Yes, making a documentary was more difficult to me. When we make a movie, we know the story. But we cannot know what will happen when we make a documentary. So, documentary directors should be very patient. While making the documentary, I thought that documentary directors are really great. I made up my mind that I would not direct any more documentaries only two days after the star of shooting Over There. But after three days passed, “I may switch from a movie to a documentary,” I told the staff. Making a documentary is attractive to that extent. When you have fun while shooting a documentary, you will consider shooting a movie less interesting. This is because movies are all fakes. (laughs) You can feel a consensus with other people living in this period. I feel that we live together while interacting with one another.
    - What is your next project?

    I am able to work only during vacations due to lectures. I am working on casting and attracting investment for a project that I will carry out during this summer vacation. I will shoot the film in Gyeongju (in Gyeongsangbuk-do) and its title is Gyeongju. The film is a comic melodrama. I have never directed a comic melodrama but I feel that I can do it well. This is because I heard many people say that my films are boring. (laughs)
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