Hong Kong Women Filmmakers

Mo Lai Yan-chi (HK Magazine)

Source: http://hk-magazine.com/movies/article/mo-lai-yan-chi

Mo Lai Yan-chi

When stage actress, documentary and short film maker Mo Lai Yan-chi was named as one of the city’s Ten Outstanding Young Persons, many were surprised. Mo has regularly criticized the government throughout her 10-year career—in fact, one of her short films is about Choi Yuen Village, which was demolished to make way for the express rail to Guangzhou. She talks to Grace Tsoi about her turbulent childhood, art and social activism.

By Grace Tsoi | Jan 31, 2013

I was born in Hong Kong, and when I was one month old, I was sent to a village on the mainland. My parents were divorced, and an old granny, a distant relative, took care of me.

The rural life that I had before the age of six had a huge impact on me. As a child, I saw something really beautiful—it feels like I once lived in paradise. I think I am very lucky that I did not live in Hong Kong during my formative years. It’s just natural for someone to yearn for material wellbeing if you were born and grew up in a materialistic place.

In the beginning, I thought that I was abandoned by my parents because I was as useless as rubbish. I once said to the granny, “I am more useless than crap!” She told me that she stored our excrement—as we had no toilets—and the vegetables I was eating were grown from the soil fertilized by it. She taught me that there is no rubbish in the world and the nature works in a cycle of balance.

That’s why I have strong feelings for Choi Yuen Village. When I went to the village, I saw many fields and the rural, self-sufficient life. That’s the paradise where I once lived as a child. I was very scared that it would all would be lost, and I was determined to do something [for the village]. That’s why I made “1+1.”

If a city does not have agriculture, it is no different from paving the way for a nuclear explosion. Hong Kong is a place that disdains farming. If a natural catastrophe were to happen, Hong Kong would be the first place to perish.

I returned to Hong Kong at age six, and I was adopted. I didn’t call my guardians “father” and “mother.” They were already in their 60s when they adopted me. Given their age, they knew that we could only live together for ten to 15 years, so they wanted me to be independent. We led a disciplined life. When I went home, it didn’t feel like going home—it felt like returning to a training school. I never watched TV. I only got to watch the news and BBC.

I saw my birth parents. I couldn’t even call them father and mother. Soap operas are all fake! There were no feelings, apart from knowing that she gave birth to me. They were total strangers to me.

I never thought the film would win awards at the Fresh Wave Short Film Competition, which is organized by the Arts Development Council. When I looked for a production crew, people said I didn’t want to win because I was using [the authorities’] money to condemn them!

Several film production companies have approached me. When I spoke to producers, we thought of ways to convey social messages while maintaining a movie’s entertainment value. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with entertainment. It’s like a door, which leads the audience to understand the message within.

The Outstanding Youth Scheme is an embodiment of success to Hongkongers. To be successful, you either have to be a professional—which is why you see a lot of lawyers and doctors getting the award—or you have to be a big star because you enjoy fame and riches. Or you are a government favorite. It seems that only these types of people can be proclaimed “successful youth.”

My entering the Ten Outstanding Young Persons Scheme is a sort of social activism. I want to change how people view outstanding youth. I want to change people’s view of success.

One of the advantages of getting the award is that a lot of organizations and schools invite me to do sharing sessions. I always tell them that you don’t need to earn the biggest sum of money in order to be successful.

I got a phone call a day before the awards ceremony, and a staff member told me that Leung Chun-ying was coming to congratulate us. Every time we take to the streets, we want to make our voices heard. A chance was bestowed upon me, and I couldn’t just smile in front of him. Pinocchio is a symbol of liars, and that’s why I gave him a Pinocchio doll as a present.

When he came to shake my hand, I gave him the doll. I said to him, “Integrity is important to outstanding leaders, and I hope you will work harder on this.” In the beginning, CY was not aware [of the satire]. He was very happy when I told him I was giving him a present. I went on to explain, and he started pushing the doll back to me.

Street performance is out of place in Hong Kong. The government has not given any thought to street performance in urban planning. The pedestrian zones are for walking, and you can’t do anything there. If you stay, it is considered as obstructing the streets.

Art has a huge function in society. The contribution of art is intangible because it can change people’s mindset. I believe art is the root of social change.


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