In this interview with Close-up Culture, director Gao Ming talks about his first fiction film – Damp Season – ahead of its world premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2020.
Q: How special is it for you to screen ‘Damp Season’ at the International Film Festival Rotterdam?
A: The International Film Festival of Rotterdam is one of my favorite international film festivals. I’ve always been respectful and yearning for it, knowing the respect they’ve shown for the art of cinema and its authors. It’s a film festival that captures high-end audiences of the world.
Damp Season is my first fiction film – it’s an art house film, I would say. Rotterdam is the perfect place for my film to meet with its first audiences worldwide. As for myself, it’ll be my first step on the career path as a film director, since I used to work as a designer, except making a documentary in my spare time. I really appreciate the platform and opportunity that the IFFR provides.
Q: What do you enjoy most about the film festival experience?
A: I’ve always been interested in festivals that honor the art of cinema. It’s been more than 100 years since the cinema was born. No matter how advanced is the technology, what remains are only the highlight moments of the art of cinema that touch us deep in our heart. They will never perish.
Q: I understand ‘Damp Season’ looks at the relationship between a young couple. Can you tell us more about this couple and what this film explores?
A: “Damp season” is a unique weather phenomenon in southern China. I take it as a metaphor to describe the interweaving emotional feelings between two men and two women – the four protagonists in my film. In fact, they all mirror each other. Every unsure situation and changing mood, their hidden secrets, do not only belong to themselves. They are all like double-sided mirrors, you are in me, I am in you.
I won’t say it’s a realistic film in its nature. It was born after a period of blue once I faced crucial changes in my life and work. The characters and props in the film are more like mental projections from my own heart. Cinema is the best tool to shape this inner conversation with myself; it’s also a procedure for me to find my own exit. I believe everyone has his or her blue moments; everyone has experienced the pain of failing to speak out. I hope this film can resonate with these audiences.
Q: Both Dong and Juan take interest in different people. What is it about these other people that Dong and Juan are drawn to?
A: The boyfriend, security guard boy Dong, has a feeling for Yuan, the woman who regularly walks by the lake that he supervises; the girlfriend, flower shop girl Juan, is attracted by Mr. Long, a rich man for whose house she delivers flowers. However, Yuan and Long are both from the adult world. They are mysterious, even vague. Whether their living environment or their past seem so unreal. Do they really exist in real life? I wonder if the woman (man) is the mirror image of the girl (boy), or vice versa. But I failed to find an answer. I believe everyone will have their own answer after watching this film.
Q: What meaning or impact does this damp weather have on the story?
A: During the damp season, at the turn of seasons between spring and summer, in this interweaving of cold and warm airflows, the humid air is condensed into drops of water, like everything on earth is weeping. These are the most unbearable days in a year. The characteristic of this weather phenomenon matches the mood of a person at his or her bottom. I have a deep understanding about this particular connection between the weather and emotion. Therefore, I try to use this particular climatic phenomenon to tell the stories of a couple plus one man and one woman emotionally interweaved.
This is a film about predicament and escape. The difference is that I care more about human behave or feeling rather than how they get involved in it. The emotion subtly grows along with time passing and weather changing, revealing the human nature patiently. It’s ambiguous, polysemous, and belongs to the south China.
Q: What do you hope audiences at Rotterdam take away from ‘Damp Season’?
A: A film is not accomplished until it reaches out to the audience’s spirit. I believe it varies from person to person when it comes to individual opinion, and each spectator is equally precious. So I’m completely open about what they will take away from my film. At the same time, I’m really curious about how they would actually feel after watching it. I wish to hear them. I’m looking forward to their voices, and I’m grateful.