Production Talk - 'Distance' by Ong Zheng Kai

DISTANCE was shot over two days as part of an assignment for school. It explores the tender but tenuous relationship between a grandson and his grandmother. Kai is preparing to leave home to go abroad when his grandmother has a fall, forcing him to re-evaluate his responsibilities and ambitions. Quietly poignant, the past and the future echo throughout the film, revealing the distance between the generations in contemporary society.
Jeremy (J) : Is this story based on a personal experience? It is something that rings the bell with many of us!
Zheng Kai (Z) : Yes. Many bits of the story was based loosely on true events that happened to me during the course of 2008. I just shifted the chronology of these events and dramatised it a little. I'm sure many of us young adults can identify with the story as we are a generation that could seriously consider the option of studying overseas, while at the same time, more and more of the elderly population are confined to the space of their homes.
J : What inspired you to make this?
Z : Honestly, I intended to shoot something else but all the ideas just didn't seem to work and seemed too contrived. I remember sitting in my chair one night and I was suddenly impressed in my heart to use existing home video footage of my grandmother that I shot earlier in the year, in this film. This footage can be seen at the starting of the short film when my grandmother makes a drink.
J : What did you shoot this on?
Z : Canon XL-H1, HDV - with PS Technik and lenses.
J : How would you describe the style or treatment of this film? I am asking this because this seems like a topic that has surfaced in many local films so I am interested to know how different is your interpretation of it?
Z : Just before the production of this film, I was editing an interview with one of the 4th Generation Chinese filmmakers, Wu Tianming, and also writing academic papers about Chinese cinema. I think I was definitely influenced by their cinematography and Wu Tianming's emphasis of realism and hope in his films.
J : What were your biggest challenges in making this film?
Z : Acting and directing together. Too much stress involved.

J : How many short films have you made prior to this? Do you intend to make more and what are some of the ideas you have in mind?
Z : I produced one in 2006. Distance is my directorial debut. I hope to make more and I hope to work on something different from Distance. I like quirky japanese content and I'm exploring to bring that into local stories.
J : What are you doing currently?
Z : I'm a Level 2 Student in The Puttnam School Of Film, LASALLE.
J : What are the top 5 movies you wish you'd made? (This is just a fun question, please feel free to not take it TOO seriously or intensely. And note: it's top 5 movies you WISH YOU MADE, not top 5 fave movies!)
Z : Jerry Maguire... Raise the red lantern... Kramer vs Kramer... Hana & Alice... The Battle of Algiers.
Zheng Kai's 'Distance' is competing in this year's SIFF Silver Screen Awards Shorts competiton.

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